We Need to Talk About Kevin

It’s not clear that I can usefully review We Need to Talk About Kevin, as it adapts one of my favorite novels, to which I am quite attached and which is fresh in my mind on account of being unforgettable. Walking out of the film, I found that virtually all of my thoughts and impressions were in reference to the book, which would be intolerably irritating to those who have not read it. So let me content myself with a few brief (albeit inevitably book-centric) observations:

– Ramsey makes a Herculean and partially successful effort to capture the novel’s crucial subjectivity; the first hour, in particular, is a tour-de-force of cross-cutting, a harrowing journey through the protagonist’s memory.

— Nonetheless, the movie perhaps unavoidably winds up emphasizing the Bad Seed elements of the story, which are hauntingly ambiguous in the book, but literal in the film — Eva’s son is out to get her, no doubt about it.

— Tilda Swinton is wonderfully relatable and un-hysterical in a tremendously difficult part, and Ezra Miller, who has cornered the market on teenage psychopaths, is terrifying.

— The incongruous details that made the novel so unsettling — Kevin’s preference for t-shirts several sizes too small; archery as a plot device — are mostly accounted for and have the same bone-chilling effect.

— The film is nothing if not engaging and intense; it set my teeth on edge even though I knew what was coming. I imagine it would be a singular thrill for someone who knows nothing going in.

— Ramsey inexplicably omits a key late-novel revelation that recasts and helps make sense of some of the preceding events. I wasn’t sure what to make of the conclusion without it.


Eugene Novikov

Released: 2011
Genres: Art, Thriller, Drama
Starring: Ashley Gerasimovich, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
Screenwriters: Lynne Ramsey, Rory Kinnear
Rated: R


Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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