The Best Movie Critic + We Need to Talk about Kevin

SDFF 34 - We Need to Talk about Kevin

Justin here with a review of We Need to Talk about Kevin, which I saw at this year's Starz Denver Film Fest.

I’ve never struggled with writing a review as much as I have with this one. This is my fourth attempt. Usually I can bang out a review in the better part of 45 minutes once I have a topic and an angle on it. Kevin is different though. It’s been about 3 weeks since I watched the movie. Since then, my affection and admiration for Kevin has deepened and grown substantially. We Need to Talk about Kevin is an achievement. It’s an important movie from the standpoint of any kind of message it might offer, but also because of what Director, Lynne Ramsay does artistically. It’s a complex movie that offers no easy answers. It won’t make you feel good about yourself. It will challenge you. It will birth thousands of conversations. And you should absolutely see it.

As We Need to Talk about Kevin opens, we see Eva as played by Tilda Swinton in a sublimely filmed sequence being pelted by thousands of tomatoes as she body surfs through a crowd. She is at the festival in Buñol, Spain and at the beginning of her relationship with future husband Franklin, played by John C. Riley. From there, we jump to the present. Eva is working through some intense trauma. She’s drinking heavily and deeply depressed. The story jumps back and forth between past and present leading to the terrible episode at the heart of the movie.

The non-linear framework is far more than a narrative gimmick. Images that Eva sees in the present trigger memories as she works to put the pieces together about what happened and what she needs to do to move forward with her life. Those images range from the primal, to unique as Ramsay manages to imbue them with emotional context to the characters. She creates a short hand for complex emotions that to viscerally callback the viewer. It’s really remarkable.

As the story rolls on, we see Eva and Franklin as they raise their child, Kevin. It’s never explicitly said in the movie, but I believe that Kevin has . He has an extremely difficult time empathizing with others, feels the need to test limits, and doesn’t feel guilt or shame. We watch as Eva tries over and over again to bond with Kevin, but he refuses it. As Kevin grows, he becomes more morally ambiguous and somewhat evil. In some ways it feels like a non-supernatural version of The Omen. Kevin is played by Ezra Miller, who does a really fantastic job with such a complex role. He somehow manages to balance being intriguing with being despicable.

*****Mild spoilers ahead that will probably be spoiled by the media*****

The episode at the heart of the movie that I mentioned before is a school shooting that Kevin does. I just want to provide a little personal context here first. I grew up in the neighborhood that the Columbine shooting happened in. I knew people who were at the school at the time. I went to a funeral of one of the victims. If a couple of things had been different for me, I could have been there. Luckily, I wasn’t. That said. I’m extremely sensitive to these things in a way that borders on childhood trauma. If I had known that there was a school shooting scene in Kevin, I probably wouldn’t have gone. I do want to say this though: the scene is completely non-exploitative. This movie actually discusses school shootings in the only way I’ve ever seen that felt real. It asks important questions. It’s really interesting to see an event like this from the perspective of the shooter’s parent, and to see what happens next. This is the reason why the structure of the movie works so well.

*****End spoilers*****

There’s far more about this wonderful movie to discuss. The performances are all pitch perfect. The atmosphere that Ramsay creates is alternately eerie, uncomfortable, and at times incredibly welcoming. There's Ramsay's subtle commentary about American suburban life. The odd soundtrack works well in the context of the movie (though I greatly preferred the soundtrack to Ramsay’s last movie, Mourvern Callar). I’m not going to speculate about awards, but unless something REALLY blows me away in the next month, I think that We Need to Talk about Kevin is my pick for movie of the year. This is a great movie to show as revenge for the parent/aunt/grandparent that made you sit through The Blind Side. It’s a great movie for people who don’t believe in easy answers and for people who know that the world is a wonderful and sometimes scary place. Highest recommendation.

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SDFF 34 - We Need to Talk about Kevin + We Need to Talk about Kevin