Lynne Ramsey's powerful drama "We Need To Talk About Kevin" is released on DVD, on demand, and digital platforms release in the US from today. To celebrate this overlooked movie that incredibly won no Oscars despite being among the very best films of last year and with featuring the best performances, I have re-posted my original review from the first Cannes screening of the film in 2011. Don't miss this great film!
rating: 4.5The two toughest questions out of the many I kept posing myself during yesterday morning's press screening of Lynne Ramsay's powerfully gripping and emotionally charged drama We Need To Talk About Kevin were; 1) Can someone be born evil? 2) What would it be like to be the mother?? Upon leaving the Lumiere theatre the answer to the first was a definite yes and the answer to the second you can only know having seen We Need To Talk About Kevin, a unique movie about overcoming extreme loss and perhaps not since Memento have I been so affected by a troubled and lost soul searching for answers at the back of the memory tank. An adaptation of Lionel Shriver's popular but harrowing 2003 novel, Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, the broken mother of her teenage son's unimaginable decision to cause a cold-blooded massacre at his school. In the run up to the two year anniversary of the killings the movie follows a battered and clearly grieving Eva trying to put her life back in some kind of order which includes a return to employment. Unfortunately this difficult task is made even more uneasy for her because of the regular abuse and vandalism on her home, her car and even her own body by the community of the town who are still devastated by her son's actions. Not to mention her own pain of trying to come to terms with what she has lost personally. But to say the drama follows Eva exclusively in the post-massacre timeline is false as We Need To Talk About Kevin is just as much told via lengthy flashbacks, kind of memory snippets/nightmares from significant events of Eva remembering the life she used to have, specifically focusing on the relationship between mother and son; from Kevin's birth to the day of the shocking murders. It's very clear in these flashbacks too that her husband (played by John C. Reilly) and a younger daughter are also nowhere to be seen post-massacre and the mystery of what happened to them and also Kevin (did he commit suicide, was he shot by cops, is he in jail, did he get away with it?) keep us guessing all the way to the end. Lionel Shriver's original novel was told via letters written by Eva to her husband in the aftermath of the massacre but this adaptation is much more effective in playing out the key events like a bad dream as seen through the eyes of the mother. The whole thing is confidently and assuredly put together, Ramsay in her first film since 2002's Morvern Callar makes both narratives gripping - playing frequently with Eva's bad and haunting memories of not just the event itself but Kevin's upbringing, constantly asking herself why she didn't spot the clues, or if she did why didn't she do anything about it? Or did she try, was there anything that could have been done? Perhaps this questioning herself is a coping device or maybe it's just out of sheer paranoia or regret or curiosity as to whether she was a bad mother to have brought someone like this into this world. The end result is a movie about unimaginable loss and pain to such a degree that few of us will ever feel. I actually had a chat with Simon Gallagher recently about next year's Oscars and I told him that the leading lady statute might as well just be handed to Meryl Streep now for her forthcoming biopic of the first female PM, Margaret Thatcher. Simon's response was wait until you see Tilda Swinton in Cannes. Now that I've seen the performance, I am certain she is going to be at least Oscar nominated. She is clearly one of the most gifted thesps (male or female) of her generation and she manages to play so many different versions of Eva in one movie here it's remarkable to watch. She excels not only as the battered, bruised, depressed and vulernable woman trying to patch her life back up but also radiating as the young mother who slowly begins to realise that there is something not quite right about the Damian child she has birthed, that I felt like bowing down to her by the end. We understand all the feelings she goes through but it's the helplessness that we really cling on too. It's clear that Kevin has been born evil... a sociopath from the age of five. We don't see Eve drop him to the ground to make him this way but he is a monster from the get-go, and he seems to know from the beginning where his fateful destructive path is going to take him. The film plays a little like The Omen - Kevin does little things to piss off his mother (some more absurd than others) and make her life a misery - such as purposefully shitting into his nappy a few times and even worse manipulative and later even dangerous behavior but when you stare into those eyes, this isn't the devil that has possessed this child, this is just how the child is. His motive and point? Well he hasn't got one and that is indeed the point he tells us but it's clear he wants to push and test Eva as much as he can to find her breaking point and when he's found it... go one notch further. Ezra Miller (as the older teen Kevin), Jasper Newell (childhood) and Rocky Deur (toddler) are all magnificent at playing the kid, all with a snear, a deathly stare and a blunt and uncompromising view of the world. They are all equally as good as the other and perhaps Ramsay's most astonishing achievement is just the extraordinary performances she manages to get out of these young actors. Performances like this (watch Deur's performance in the red ball throwing scene) just don't happen at this age, but to have three from these young actors in one movie - all playing the same character - it's truly something to see. Miller, Newell & Deur should all share a Best Supporting Actor nod for shaping Kevin the way they do. All three of them will freak you out and would make any sane person have second thoughts about raising kids. The movie is highly stylised and from the very first few shots of Seamus McGarvey's photography the frame is splashed with red blotches everywhere, which continues with everything ranging from paint on poor Eve's car all the way through to Kevin frequently eating sandwiches with heaps of jam like it was going out of business and even to the chairs in the image above and the tomato soup cans in the one even further up. I Imagine Ramsey is a fan of Nicholas Meyer's red-stained grieving horror Don't Look Now. The noise of the film is just as important to create a mood as Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood's score includes over-impowering sirens and perhaps the sound of garden sprinklers hissing like a mischievous devil that I can guarantee will stay with you long after your first viewing. The visuals and sound blend together to create an inescapable uneasy mood that along with the direction, the performances create a movie that packs a mighty emotional punch. This is a very special film. I can't imagine I will see a better film at the Cannes Film Festival than We Need To Talk About Kevin and in the eight years since her last movie, Ramsay has lost nothing of the supreme talent that her earlier work hinted at. Please don't wait eight years to make another movie. Bring the festival experience home this year on Blu-ray Disc keep up to date with all the latest Blu-ray news at the Blu-ray Disc Reporter.