What does a mother do, when her son turns out to be a cold-blooded killer? At first she will probably refuse to believe it was him before beginning to investigate what it was that corrupted her darling boy.
Eva (Tilda Swinton) does just that in Lynne Ramsay’s new film We need to talk about Kevin, when her 15-year-old son Kevin (Ezra Miller) goes on a killing spree in his High School…
Flashbacks of their mother and son relationship are intercut with Eva’s life as a social pariah – scrubbing red paint off her houses porch, taking slaps from victim’s mothers and doing a job way below her. The dream-like wavering of the film makes it even more gruelling and although it’s scripted as a drama, the emotional layer just underneath the images’ surface turns it into a terrifying horror film.
Falling pregnant Eva is afraid of the chaos that awaits her and a stark contrast to her teddybear-like husband Franklin (John C. Reilly). Driving his mother insane all day Kevin is sweet when his father arrives at night. It seems to be a power struggle from the very beginning with Kevin seemingly at the long end of the stick. As a baby he screams all day, until he’s around 5 he insists on wearing diapers forcing his mother to change them all the time.
Instead of the psyche and development of Kevin as a killer the mother-child relationship is the main topic. Instead of looking for the motives behind Kevin’s crime, it’s much more interested in mother’s and son’s struggle to accept, understand and love one another. Thus the film leaves plenty of questions unanswered, but instead of a flaw, this is rather its strength and intention.
Parenthood, Swinton says, is a field without experts. Everyone tries their best, but nobody is perfect and thus bound to make mistakes. We need to talk about Kevin is a phrase I impatiently waited for in the film, but Eva never says it. Instead the relationship with her husband grows more distant and without wording her concerns about their cynic son, she is left alone in her struggle to love him . Maybe the lesson of this uncompromising film is that honest communication is what’s missing. Everyone fights their own battle and although We need to talk about Kevin doesn’t point fingers or even search for answers the often red tinted images do seem to form a clear picture. This collage hints that our enormous wish for individuality and the inability to connect because of it may to be the underlying bug in all family, business and social affairs.
Certainly this film is one that does make the audience wonder, ask themselves uncomfortable questions and possibly come up with even more uncomfortable answers. It’s not one to watch if you wish to be entertained but rather when you are prepared to do what the title already suggests: We need to talk about Kevin.