Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 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: John C Reilly, Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton
  • 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

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Salt Of The Earth

    Brazilian documentary about the life of visionary photographer Sebastião Salgado, directed by Wim Wenders and Sebastião's son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

    On Film4: 2 Nov 1:00AM

  • Film4

    Master Of The World

    Fun sci-fi fantasy for big kids and small, adapted from the Jules Verne story of the same name.

    On Film4: 30 Oct 3:15PM

  • Film4

    The Guest on Film4

    Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe star in violent thriller The Guest, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Film4

    Black Cinema Season on Film4

    To tie-in with the launch of the BFIs Black Star season, Film4 presents a celebration of black filmmaking talent both in front of and behind the camera.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register