Movie review – The horribly dark side of motherhood

2012-01-28 12:09

Film: We Need to Talk About Kevin (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Featuring: Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller and Jasper Newell
Rating: 8/10

Director Lynne Ramsay, who trained as a camera operator, makes her full-length feature debut with this shattering story.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is based on Lionel Shriver’s much-buzzed-about novel that explores motherhood in an extraordinary way.

Tilda Swinton is Eva, a mother whose son went on a killing spree. She doesn’t know why, but she knows she must be to blame. She is after all the mother, and mothers are always guilty of something. As she tries to pick up the pieces of her shredded life, she doesn’t remove the figurative hair shirt she wears – Kevin.

The book is written in letters between mother and son. The film too creates a mosaic of Eva and Kevin’s lives, the pieces of which slowly form into a full picture of the terrible event that informs their lives.

Ezra Miller stars as a teenage Kevin and Jasper Newell takes the role of the younger Kevin. Both performances will make any mother’s blood run cold.

Kevin is a very hard child to like, never mind love. That is what makes We Need to Talk About Kevin a horror story.

He is nasty, manipulative and never reciprocates when shown affection. To say such things about any child feels wrong. For the child’s mother to say them must seem criminal to her.

Through vignettes of family life and crises, Eva tries to find the elusive “why” of Kevin’s murderous behaviour.

Central to this film is the eternal nurture versus nature debate. Was Kevin born a potential murderer or did his mother drive him to it?

Swinton is mesmerising in this role. She barely speaks a word, yet she manages to communicate her anguish from every pore. She takes punishment from those around her every minute. She never defends herself and never attempts an explanation. She simply turns the other cheek. Most heartbreaking of all is that she continues to reach out to Kevin in a series of excruciating prison visits that further destroy her soul.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is not recommended for those who are about to have or are planning to have children. It is horrific enough to put off any potential parent.
 
That said, it is a superb piece of film-making. Swinton worked hard for an Oscar nomination that she never got in a particularly strong Oscar year. I don’t, however, think I could ever sit through this gruelling film again – as good as it is.

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