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  • 15
  • Drama, Thriller
  • 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Film4 We Need To Talk About Kevin


Dark drama based on Lionel Shriver's best-seller about a mother and her very naughty son.


Does your son or daughter refuse to play with a ball? Does their cry drill through you like the sound of a thousand angry wasps all ganging up on a particularly vocal cat? Do you strongly suspect that they crap themselves with malice aforethought? Maybe they got paint on the maps that symbolise your lost freedom. Maybe they deliberately threw their premonitory blood-red toast and jam on the floor, just to annoy you. Or perhaps you believe they poured drain cleaner in a younger siblings eye.

If your child displays any of these symptoms, beware: you might just have a Kevin on your hands. Evil children have a rich history in cinema, but theyre most often employed as a horror trope  think of your Damiens, your Regans, your Wednesday Adamses. Its much more startling to see an evil child/teenager (three actors portray Kevin as he grows) portrayed in a serious character study.

Evil child isnt too strong a term for Kevin Khatchadourian (a stunning Ezra Miller in his eldest incarnation), which is what makes him so startling in a serious drama. Hes not a moustache twirling villain. Rather - at least as seen through the eyes of his mother Eva (a superb performance from Tilda Swinton), whose perhaps highly subjective viewpoint we are sharing - its just his nature to be awful. At times, we and she feel we cant really blame him too much  its his nature, just as much as its a scorpions nature to sting, a vipers to bite, a piranhas to dilacerate. Scorpions, vipers, piranhas and Kevins arent evil  its just what they do. But of course Kevin is human, and its his moments of humanity, even levity, that finally condemn him: because he is capable of being human, the inhuman choices are the blacker for it.

Lynne Ramsay trusts her actors to show us all this, keeping the script stripped back in dialogue terms. Stylistically, shes much more ready to guide the viewer  a deliberately on-the-nose visual palette flirts with an almost Giallo-like horror aesthetic and helps keep the nastiness continually bubbling under the surface; this is never a prettified Oscar-romancing exploration of a tragedy.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller
  • Director: Lynne Ramsay
  • Writer: Rory Kinnear, Lynne Ramsay
  • Photographer: Seamus McGarvey
  • Composer: Jonny Greenwood

In a nutshell

A meaty, full-fat, marrow-rich, extra-pulp vision of the nightmare side of motherhood, given realism by a pair of all-too believable performances.

by Catherine Bray

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