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Old 1st May 2012, 13:24   #1
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Default We Need to Talk about Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin is an adaptation of the book by Lionel Shriver, directed by Lynne Ramsay. The film begins unsettlingly, with a dream of the spanish Tomatina festival, in which crushed tomatoes are exuberantly pelted at and smeared over all participants – the red pulp has obvious echoes of gore and it’s a slightly queasy image as we see our protagonist, Eva, luxuriating in the exotic redness. Then she wakes, and there is an eerie echo of the red, in the light coming through into her small, spartan living space.

As she ventures outdoors, it becomes evident that her house has been bespattered with a large amount of red paint, her car too. She’s an object of hate and contempt, being the mother of a teenage boy who is in prison for committing an atrocity at the local school. The story of her relationship with this boy is told in flashback, pieces of a jigsaw giving us a gradually fuller picture of the problematic nature of his upbringing.

Not doubt many here will be familiar with the book, and the film necessarily asks many of the same questions – is Kevin’s apparently dysfunctional nature due to Eva’s predisposition against him, or has she been right all along that he has some kind in innate malice in him? If the latter, is there a question about how much of that is due to his being his mother’s son? At one point, one of the few when it seems there might be a softening in their relationship, he tells her “You’re kind of harsh, y’know?” She replies, “You’re one to talk.” Kevin: “Yes, I am. I wonder where I get it from?”

It’s a pretty clever and faithful adaptation. One thing that impressed me a great deal was the attention to visual detail. The repeated use of redness – the tomato festival, the paint, and later on, jam and of course blood (though an effectively sparing use of this element). Even details in the characters’ hair – Kevin has a characteristic whip of black hair which descends onto his cheek, and occasionally we see the same thing in Eva’s hair, particularly at moments of stress. It seemed an interestingly subtle way of emphasising the connection between the two.

Without resorting to visual darkness (most of the film is very light and bright) Ramsay effectively builds the disturbing elements of the film, incuding a scene in which the small boy Kevin apparently makes his mother complicit in a lie which shows her in a better light than she deserves. One of the later scenes is particularly hard to watch – it involves Eva with Kevin’s little sister, Celia, but I wouldn’t want to say too much in case others want to see this film who are less than familiar with the story.

There are some proper horror elements in the film, but they are all the more effective for having been used sparingly; and I hope it’s not giving too much away to say there’s no “everything will be all right now” tying-up at the end, though there is a resolution of sorts.

The performances are faultless – the central ones of Tilda Swinton as Eva and Ezra Miller as the teenage Kevin are particularly striking.

Whatever you think of the book, I think the film is worth seeing. It manages to be genuinely disturbing and compelling with none of the sensationalism you might expect from an adaptation of a book that has at its core such a horrific event.

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