We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Hayley Alice Roberts


A harrowing portrayal of a fictional school massacre told through the eyes of the long-suffering mother of the boy who commits the crime is the sensitive subject matter for “We Need to Talk about Kevin” (2011). Based on a novel by Lionel Shriver that I am unfamiliar with; as a film “Kevin” grips the audience from the beginning and leads us on a dark journey of events that unfold prior to the fateful crime; in order to comprehend the “why?” and “how?” both for us and the character of Eva-his mother .

The film’s strength lies within the compelling performances most notably by Tilda Swinton who plays protagonist Eva; she creates a relationship of empathy between her character and the audience as throughout she struggles to connect with her first-born and only son Kevin. Her motivations are justified given her difficult situation as the film demonstrates that its not always the fault of the parental figures and it can happen to just about anybody; it was an interesting choice to portray the parents as hard-working and middle class in comparison to depicting a stereotypical “white trash” scenario. From Kevin’s early years it is evident that Eva tries her best in order to engage with her son to no avail and doesn’t give up trying. The film cleverly implies visually that the blood lies on Eva’s hands as she bears the consequences of Kevin’s actions, technically she created this monster and in a sense is depicted as “responsible”. The opening shows her drenched in tomato sauce along with later in the film images of her washing red paint off her house which creates a very striking and symbolic effect. The fleeting moments in which Eva “connects” with Kevin ultimately emphasise her responsibility in the ordeal as she reads him the story of “Robin Hood”, seemingly innocent, this foreshadows the dark events to come in his later life; culminating so many questions relating back to the “why?” and “how?”.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” also deserves praise in terms of how it sensitively deals with its issue through the cinematography and direction; the tone is disturbing without the actual violence being shown. Ezra Miller (who plays the older Kevin) and Jasper Newell (who plays him as a toddler) performances are unsettling enough placing the audience and Eva on edge throughout unknowing when he’ll snap while at the same time keeping a sense of hope that he will change. As a whole “Kevin” is a very well-crafted psychological film, dealt with sympathetically and portrayed through an impressive cast who illustrate lack of communication and the breakdown of the family- which ultimately is the scariest element. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
After becoming impacted by the film I will definitely be putting the novel on my Christmas list.