Film Review: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2011)

Film Review: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2011)

Aug 14, 2016

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Review by Jude Felton

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The nature versus nurture debate, regarding human behavior, has raged on for years. Are people molded by external influences or are they born the way that they are? It is a debate that will no doubt continue for many more years to come. The film We Need to Talk about Kevin delves into this, and raises as many questions as it does answers, and will leave the viewer pondering this, and more, long after it finishes.

The film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver, follows the lives of Eva (Tilda Swinton), her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) and their children Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich) and, of course, Kevin (Played as a toddler by Rock Duer, a child by Jasper Newell, and a teenager by Ezra Miller) . It is not however a straightforward story that will take the viewer from point A to point B, instead it consists of a slow reveal between the past, shown in flashbacks, through to the present day. In doing so the full horror of the story gets revealed.

Initially the film is quite disorientating, and it will take a short while to become clear as to what is happening. The basic outline though is that Eva is living alone and faces constant harassment, whether it is at home, work or even on the street, for reasons that will only later be revealed. Thus begins a slow, and often painful, journey as we follow Eva’s life, the birth of her son Kevin and his development from baby to teenager.
We Need to Talk about Kevin is quite simply a stunning movie. There are moments of levity within the tale, yet the overriding feeling throughout is one of quiet dread, shock and sadness. Whether or not you will find the film depressing will depend entirely on each individual. What it is though is incredibly powerful from start to finish, and is the type of movie that demands you are thinking about it, not only whilst you are watching it, but long after it finishes. How much influence does a parent, or parents, have on how their children develop? Will they turn out a certain way, regardless of environment? Or is it external influences?

The manner in which the film unfolds only serves to heighten the dramatic tension that slowly unspools across the screen; cutting away just before a reveal, demanding that you wait uncomfortably for your answers. Answers that aren’t always forthcoming.

Aside from an incredible story, and it really is powerful viewing, the film is further bolstered by some terrific cast performances. Tilda Swinton is an absolute powerhouse in this film which, despite the title, really is just as much about her as it is her son, Kevin. Supporting her is yet another strong performance from John C. Reilly, as the seemingly oblivious father, and is another role that shows he can play the serious roles just as well as the comedic performances he is often known for. In the role of Kevin there are actually three actors, playing him at different ages, and all three are excellent. In particular Jasper Newell (ages 6-8) and Ezra Miller (Kevin as a teenager) really give frightening portrayals of the troubled child.

This really is a film that could be praised for far longer than I am going to here. Everything from the script, direction, acting and score, from Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, are pitch-perfect. This all results in an incredible film; one that demands to be seen at least once, and one that won’t soon be forgotten. The structure may alienate some viewers, as it is not typical mainstream faire, but it most certainly rewards the viewer that has patience.

This release from Oscilloscope Films is quite terrific. They could have just put out the movie in plain packaging and no-one would complain. As it is though, it comes with the Blu-ray and DVD discs, all packaged into a beautiful pull-out gatefold sleeve, and a selection of very worthy extras, which include an interview with Lionel Shriver, behind the scenes of the movie and some extra footage. All in all a wonderful release from all involved in it.