We need to talk about Kevin was not what I expected at all. For one I thought it was a comedy. I knew nothing about the film, except that John C. Reilly was in it. So naturally I jump to the conclusion it’s going to be a comedy. I’ve seen Reilly in a few serious roles but after a slew of Will Ferrell comedies I can’t help but associate him with that type of film. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was something much better.
The film, Told from the perspective of a grieving mother and wife (Tilda Swinton), centres around her relationship with her son Kevin (Ezra Miller). The film spans their entire relationship, building a palpable hatred between the two which leads to a tragic event that changes her life drastically. Leaving her ostracized, and tormented by those who hold her responsible.
What I liked most about this film was how it was told. It’s beautifully edited to tell the story from Eva’s point of view; and we’re instantly thrown in at her lowest point. Alone, and living off prescribed drugs and take out food she leaves for a job interview to find her car and front porch covered in red paint; a clear act of vandalism. You instantly feel bad for her. A feeling further reinforced through a series of flashbacks to key events in her relationship with Kevin. From birth, throughout childhood, to his teenage years you sympathise with her as Kevin’s subtle yet devious behaviour agitates Eva to breaking point. There’s a really uncomfortable atmosphere between them, and such an explosive chemistry between Swinton and both childhood and teenage Kevin, that creates scenes which contain no more than a look between the two or a subtle gesture, generating such a tension that it becomes stressful to watch. You can see this frustration build in Eva and you know at any minute she’s going to snap. It’s unrelenting and you’re unable to relax.
Aside from its beautiful story telling, I think the films success was in the performances. This was a stellar cast who delivered some incredible characters. Most notable has to be Tilda Swinton in a role that drives the film. She delivers an intense, passionate performance that felt suffocating at times as you empathised with her struggle to save her family in a situation she was so convincingly miserable in. Every Kevin, from the toddler Kevin (Rock Duer), the childhood Kevin (Jasper Newell), to Ezra Miller made me want to give him up for adoption. They all delivered such malicious, insidious, and ‘disturbed’ characters. Especially Jasper Newell, who gets the worst from Eva; but I could totally justify her actions. Kevin is a little shit! He made me hate that boy. He is a rising talent I’m sure, and if they make another remake of The Omen he’ll be a shoo-in.
Though he didn’t get much screen time and his role was fairly brief I enjoyed John C. Reilly’s character (Franklin) the most. It’s a nice change to see him back in a serious role, and such a contrast from his more recent comedic efforts. It was refreshing to see him in a more challenging role. There is such a kindness to him, quite playful and so captivating to watch. It would have been nice to see him with a bigger part. But none the less he plays a convincing family man, loving husband and doting parent. There’s a beautiful chemistry between him and Swinton, so convincing as his frustration and agitation towards Eva builds as she tries to reason with him over Kevin’s malevolent behaviour. There’s a real struggle in both of them.
There were many great performances in this film, most of them minor roles, but all very strong. With a weaker cast and without each character’s unmistakable chemistry with another, the film would have failed to deliver such a believable story.
There was nothing I disliked about the film. Except that there wasn’t more of John C. Reilly. But for anyone who doesn’t like him I guess that’s a good thing. I liked the films subtlety. It was more effective for showing less. We saw practically nothing of the event that the film centres around. But you didn’t need to. You knew what happened and that’s horrific enough. Its true that things you don’t see are always more frightening than the things you do. Your imagination runs wild. And obviously you imagine the worst.
Though the film wasn’t highly stylised, there were sequences beautifully shot and cleverly edited into the film to hint at key events and reflect Eva’s grief and torment. One bit I really liked was a recurring image of a billowing curtain that covered an open door, for the whole film I wanted to know what was outside and only at the end did I find out. It was a nice contrast, and a moment to relax between such intense scenes.
I’d recommend anyone to go and see this film; so long as your over fifteen though! It’s a sensitive subject matter but its handled delicately and without graphic violence. I advice you don’t buy popcorn or sweets for the film unless you plan on shovelling them in during the adverts and trailers, because personally I always feel a little awkward grazing through any film, or theatre, or performance any some kind, that deals with such an undeviating, shocking and uncomfortable, but very real subject.
On the beast factor, 5 beasts being the best film I’ve ever seen, less that 1 beast being utter shit, I give We need to talk about Kevin 4 beasts. It could have been 4 and ¼ but they lose out because there wasn’t enough of John C. Reilly.
Go see it then we can all talk about Kevin.