Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Initial Review by Bobby Schmidt
This is my first experience with a Lynne Ramsay film, and while I've heard the title of Ratcatcher before, I don't know a single thing about it. I really liked her direction and choices in We Need to Talk About Kevin. The vast use of red imagery sets the movie up, letting the audience know that something bad, bloody, and violent is coming (and we never actually see the violence happen, yet it's powerful). I liked how it grabbed my attention early, but it it started to feel a bit aggressive, overplayed, and just non stop. I suppose that was the point. Still, it's probably my only real issue among vast praise for Ramsay's choices throughout the film. From the multiple shots of Eva against different backdrops (the wall of soup cans, for example), the view from below the water line (clear until the water surfaces is touched), to the deliberate cuts such as the one from the pregnant women to the screaming girls in the hallway... making the viewer feel nearly as uneasy about Eva having a baby as she seemed to feel. The parallels from Kevin's nails to Eva and the egg shells, Kevin shooting paint on Eva's walls reflecting the red paint thrown on her house reflecting Kevin's attack (be it the blood of the massacre or the symbolism of how it covered Eva's life as she tries to scrub it off). All of the shot choices were clear and served their purpose well... and I'm immediately interested in checking out her other films (although, I'm not too sure about a space Moby Dick that's supposedly in the works).
One of the most successful things about the movie is the level of frustration and suspense that the viewer feels. The back and forth between the present and the past gives us just enough with each flash to continue drawing us in. I felt the frustration when Eva' stubbed her toe, even mouthing to myself, 'Ow, FFFFFFFFF!' as it happened. Moments that gave a little 'holy shit' reaction, like the lady punching Eva as she walked by, really made me wonder exactly what happened... even if a part of me already felt where it was going. I loved the scenes when Eva was driving. Both created a subtle feel of worry and suspense, as she tries to get her windshield clean, barely able to see, accompanied by upbeat music, and then the drive around the children on Halloween. There were just so many scenes with Eva that drove the eerie feeling. Her flashbacks involving Kevin showed her struggle with blaming herself or whether there was nothing she could do. Reliving specific moments as if it could have been any one of those that caused him to do what he did. Was it getting frustrated when he refused to roll the ball back, throwing him down when he soiled himself, or any number of unfortunately moments. Was it just her general approach to having and raising Kevin?
On the opposite side, we see Franklin and Celia. The former being the optimistic and happy father, who seems to connect with Kevin and solicit positive reactions from him. Celia is raised in the same environment and showing ranges of emotion and what most people would consider normal behavior. If it was truly Eva's fault, how is she so different from Kevin? I feel like both of these characters, especially Franklin, are portrayals of society's expectations... of family, happiness, and optimism. Their deaths being the most striking and personal, showing us the loss of those expectations, a possible reality that isn't at all comfortable to see or think about.
I like that the movie didn't seem to commit to either side of the nature/nurture argument... although, getting it all from Eva's view, her self blame could be seen as such.. but I think it's more of the question posed that an attempt at an answer. It makes an effort to show how somebody in her position would respond, dealing with the view of the public... especially the victims and their families. The emotions, and lack thereof, portrayed throughout the film were powerful in getting it all across.
This was an all around fantastically acted movie. Tilda Swinton gives a phenomenal performance as Eva Khatchadourian. She was given a lot of praise and good amount of recognition and nominations for the role... all well-deserved. She's an easy MMC best actress nominee. John C. Reilly was such a great choice for Franklin. His demeanor and attitude felt genuine, if sometimes ill-placed. Ezra Miller gave an outstanding performance as well. His expressions and tone were always on point. And I know we've talked about child actors many a time here, so Jasper Newell definitely deserves some credit for his part as the younger Kevin.
As always, I feel like I'm leaving things out... but that's what discussion and comments are for. I don't know how well the movie matched up with its source material, but watching definitely makes me want to read it and find out. I'd guess some the more potent lines, like "Just because you're used to something, doesn't mean you like it. You're used to me," are taken straight from the text... along with some of Kevin's interview on the news and his final admittance of no longer being sure as to why. Well written and important dialogue, I think.
Anyway... it's pretty easy to see where my grade is going here. We Need to Talk About Kevin approaches masterpiece level... as I said, I didn't like the overly aggressive use of red after a while, even though I get it. I also rolled my eyes at the violent video game scene... but wasn't surprised by it, either. Sometimes movies that are as dark and sad as this can be hard to like... but I think they're really important experiences and the emotions they bring out of us can be so powerful. And as we learned, Sadness is vital to our existence and happiness! A part of me says A+, but I'm just not there with it... maybe if I ever happen to rewatch it (knowing that this isn't a film that likely scores a high rewatchable factor with it being so dark). As for now, this is a strong A.