Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilley
Review: There are few things in this world that are more horrific than a school shooting. When a place of youth, innocence, and possibilities is corrupted so violently it is an event that shakes everyone involved to the core. With the school shootings that have happened in my lifetime they have all ended with the shooter committing suicide as the final act of their tragedy. My guess is these individuals don’t have a full grasp of what they’re doing and their inability to deal with that causes them to eliminate the possibility of having to live through any consequences. This means the only people left to live with this are the victims.
‘Victims’ here includes the parents of the child who did the shooting. The parents have to live with repeating the precursors of the event over and over in their heads. “Could I have prevented this?” “Why didn’t I see this coming?” “Is this all my fault?” These are questions that can never be answered. Events are never how you remember them and even if they are, what’s done is done. Now, they just have to live with the heavy burden of their child being at the center of such a terrible tragedy.
This is what ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ is all about. How a parent lives with their child authoring such a horrific event must be nearly as terrifying as the event itself. I would imagine as a parent of a child in this scenario you would go over every possible event in his life that could have tipped you off to this outcome. ‘Kevin’ nails this down perfectly.
The film starts in present day and then takes us through intermittent flashbacks. It doesn’t take quite a normal approach with chronological flashbacks leading up to current time. Rather, this film gives us random flashbacks in no discernable order, mimicking how someone would actually run these thoughts through their head. There would be no order, just random occurrences that bring up different memories each time.
About half way through the movie, after enough flashbacks, we start to realize what this really is: a horror movie. While the director Lynn Ramsey gets credit for crafting a believable scenario in which a woman would resent her child, the film takes it one step further to where the son is given an evil standard beyond that which we would consider generally plausible. The teenage version of Kevin seems a little too real, it’s the younger versions where the ideal falls apart.
At times it’s as though the movie was doing too good of a job. As a film it sets its course in the complete right direction. In the event of school shootings we see so much about the victims, the victims’ families, and usually some sort of last note or video from the shooter. What questions arise but rarely get answered are all present here. What were the signs? How and why did this child do this? Could it have been prevented? We see it all.
It seems as though it might have hit too close to home and instead of going down that route they changed it a bit to make it slightly less believable and closer to true horror. While that is not meant to diminish the abject horror of this type of event in real life, it is to say when a movie eschews a little bit of believability it becomes easier to digest and deal with.
Regardless of the approach taken, all performances in this film are top notch. Ezra Miller as Kevin is truly frightening and Tilda Swinton perfectly encapsulates what it would be like to deal with scenario as well as trying to find yourself and get a handle on life after your world completely unravels. Seeing where Eva (Swinton) ends up and how she got there is truly chilling and unsettling. ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ isn’t as much of a social commentary as you would expect. It’s more about the horror of these types of events and how we even begin to comprehend and move on from them. It’ll stick with you for a little bit. It’s a very good movie but one that I don’t know that I will bring myself to watch again.
That said, it is worth your time at least once.