We Need To Talk About Kevin
'It's gotten to a point where the people on television are watching television. And what are they watching? People like me,' 15-year-old Kevin (Miller) tells his mother Eva (Swinton). Kevin has always been a problem child – for Eva that is, for gullible hubby Franklin (Reilly) he's nice as pie – and mum and son have been at loggerheads since Kevin was born. When Kevin commits a terrible crime, Eva is forced to look back on his upbringing and figure out what went wrong and questions her own part in the terrible mess...
The adaptation differs to the book from time to time. The title works better for the book as it is written from wife to a presumably here – replaced by flashbacks and flashforwards– maybe the title suggests what the audience will be talking about after the film. Because Kevin raises a lot of questions: Was he born psychotic? Was it something he inherited through an indifferent society? Or was it Kevin picking up on the fact that his mother never wanted him? The old nature vs. nurture chestnut is up for debate.
Every now and then, Ramsay daringly suggests Eva and Kevin are one and the same: when Eva plunges her head into a sink of cold water her face momentarily morphs into his and the close up of Kevin chewing his nails later mimics the close up of Eva pulling broken egg shells from her lips. At one point, in a last ditch effort at a connection, Eva and Kevin play Crazy Golf and Kevin agrees when Eva remarks that fat people are only fat because they eat too much. Ramsay plays around with the idea that this might be all in Eva's head too: the frightened loner takes the Halloween trick-or-treat rampage as a personal attack.
Ramsay, in her first film since 2002, flits about the place like a hyperactive child. She opens …Kevin halfway through, just as Eva reaches the school where horrified paramedics, police, parents and students have gathered, then cuts to a year later with Eva living on her own, and then back to when Eva first got pregnant. The director doesn't hang about in any scene, creating confusion but also interest – what happened? What did he do? It's hard to know what the reaction to this haphazard style will be if one hasn't read the book but Swinton's jaw drop as she sees something off screen at the school will keep curiosity burning until the reveal.
Ramsay flits between the subtle and the obvious too. Instead of shooting needless scenes where the town discuss 'what that woman's son did' the director has silent shots of the town's eyes following Eva around. But there are times she goes overboard: The evil eyes the young Kevin (played first by Rock Duer and then by Jasper Newell – both excellent) shoots his mother is taken straight from The Omen (sometimes all that's missing is Jerry Goldsmith) and the colour red dominates the film to such a degree that it becomes overpowering. John C. Reilly, cast because of his dopey likeability, is, like his character in the novel, still annoyingly clueless.
Miller delivers in the eerie kid department and Swinton? Just give her the Oscar now.
Story by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Thursday 1st March 2012 | DVD review
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