We Need to Talk About Kevin was not nominated for any Academy Awards (Tilda Swinton was robbed of a Best Actress nod). And as a result, it wasn't given its due at the height of cinema's serious season, when movies of consequence are given full consideration.
It's also probably why the movie is being quietly shifted in and out of cinema art houses without much fanfare. It's a shame. The film is a stunner. We Need to Talk About Kevin pushes many boundaries and may well leave your stomach in knots. But if you're adequately prepared for its subject matter, I can't recommend this movie enough.
Writer-director Lynne Ramsay carefully re-crafted Lionel Shriver's 2004 bestseller and delivers a 21st century American tragedy: the fictional account of Kevin, evil incarnate. A fussy infant evolves into a misbehaving adolescent (he refuses to be potty-trained), and as Kevin matures, his malevolence grows deeper and his antisocial tendencies grow malicious (he tortures a younger sister and pets go missing). Eventually, his carefully chosen cruelty invokes widespread terror.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is framed through the experiences of Kevin's mother Eva (Swinton), a smart, skilled travel writer. Early in the film, we see her celebrating the rather surreal tomato festival of Bunol, Spain. She is bathed in red from the oddly beautiful tomatoes, but the explosion of crimson is no coincidence. Before Eva's journey is done, there indeed will be blood.
Swinton, already an Oscar winner for Michael Clayton, is one of a select few actresses who balances strength and fragility when working with strong material, as she does here. In one breathtaking scene, Eva purposely takes an out-of-control screaming Kevin to a construction site, where only the cacophony of jackhammers can drown out her child's crescendos of terror. You will not soon forget the image, let alone the sound.
Equally fine are the trio of young actors who fully realize Kevin--Rock Duer, who portrays him as a toddler; Jasper Newell in preadolescence; and especially Ezra Miller, who embodies a calculating and quite possibly murderous teen.
While much of the movie-going nation flocks to The Hunger Games, which examines the darker side of the human condition, We Need to Talk About Kevin provides a much more powerful, yet intimate consideration. But be warned: This film is as harrowing as it is astute.
There have been previous attempts at this delicate subject matter before--The Bad Seed shocked Broadway audiences in the 1950s--but never has a dramatic portrayal of child pathology been so brave. It may haunt you for years.