Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin throws away all social etiquette and explores a regrettable, yet real, aspect of our world: school shootings. As touchy a subject you can get, the film sensitively explores how such evil can eventually come to be, and how it is derived.

The film's first five minutes, which are a prelude to the actual story arch, aim to set the mood of the film. The main subject of the film, Eva Khatchadourian, portrayed by an excellent Tilda Swinton, is standing amongst a sea of people, drenched in a red substance we can only presume is blood. It is a very tribal scene, with crowds chanting, and Eva submitting to the chaos, as she is lifted and passed around by the group of people surrounding her.

And then the story begins. The movie does not draw on any real-life occurrences, and is actually based on a 2003 book by Lionel Shriver, and adapted to the screen by director Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear.

The first fifteen minutes fiddle around with time a bit, as the story weaves in and out of two time periods: before the killing spree, and after. Naturally, everything is different in the two scenes. Eva's demeanor, haircut, and even her house represent drastic differences, and it's our job to wait and see how point A gets to point B.

The story does revolve around a high-school killing spree, but I did not misspeak when I said that the main subject of the film is Eva. It is her son, Kevin (portrayed by three actors, Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and then Ezra Miller), who does the evil deed, but the purpose of the movie is about the mother who raised him, and how her life is thrown into a tailspin upon such evil.

It is a rarely explored subject, because high-school shootings are so villainous, so incorrigible that our minds can't even fathom such maliciousness. It's only human to think that individuals who undertake such a deed must have spawned straight from Hell. However, it's not the case. Not at all.

Tidla Swinton with young Kevin, played by Rock Duer.
Eva is married to Franklin (John C. Reilly), who for lack of a better word, are lovely people. The couple have their first child, Kevin, and devote themselves to him, as any good parents would. But right away, we are made aware of the fact that something isn't quite right with Kevin; he's just a little bit off. However, in the age of social disorders, his abnormalities are constantly dismissed.

We follow the family, and since we know the outcome, we are ever so observant of Kevin's behavior. We watch everything; what he says, his facial expressions, his actions, as we try to look for some type of foreshadowing for what we know the final outcome will be.

The couple has one more child along the way, Celia, played by Ashley Gerasimovich, who is perfectly pleasant, leading us even more to believe that Kevin is an anomaly in this all-American family. Celia, who is cute and friendly, is the child that Eva and Franklin always wanted.

But let's talk about Kevin. I said earlier that we look for the signs of inherent evil within Kevin. But instead, he's the opposite. To put it eloquently, Kevin is simply cool. Good-looking, smart, eloquent; on paper, Kevin seems like a parent's dream. However, he still possesses that air throughout that tells us that something is a little off, and that is a tribute to the acting of Miller. He plays the part pretentiously (in a good way), with just the right blend of coolness and malevolence.

Tidla Swinton, meanwhile, is phenomenal, as she goes beyond the realms that any parent would ever wish to go. One can't even begin to imagine what it must feel like to have your own offspring commit such a heinous crime, but Swinton's acting certainly gives us a little bit of insight. Franklin may adore his son, but Eva is the only one who actually fears Kevin, and has the intuitive sense that he may actually be capable of doing terrible things.

Ezra Miller in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
At one point, she discovered a compact disc in Kevin's room. Curious, she loads it onto her computer, only to discover that the disc contains a virus that, when inserted, will wipe out your entire hard drive. Why do you possess such a thing, she asks. "What's the point?" The camera then zooms in directly on Kevin's eyes, and he recites a response that gives us as much insight into his character than any other dialogue in the entire film:

"There is no point. That's the point."

Even though we know how the movie will end, the characters become so compelling that we almost will ourselves to think that the ending will be different. We hope that Kevin will change his mind, but deep down, we know he won't. And when the deed finally does occur, the faint-of-heart and easily-saddened need not worry. Nearly all of the violence takes place of the screen, and is implied rather than shown. But it does happen.

Although the plot is drawn out for us right from the get-go, the movie explores the psychological nature behind the people who commit one of the most unspeakable actions one could imagine, and shows us how the events come to be. It is a character study through and through, and there's no doubt, when the film ends, you know exactly which character you will be talking about.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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