We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
When I first encountered Lynn Ramsey’s haunting poetic method of storytelling, in We Need to Talk About Kevin, I was floored. The subject is indeed harrowing. School violence and focusing on the parent of a child who commits such an atrocity is a tough sell in cinema. However, the way in which the story is crafted and how it uses memory, color, time, and visceral emotional reactions makes it all worthwhile.
It is this unflinching approach that creates a psychological thriller about the origin of “evil” and what role does nature vs. nurture play in the creation of evil.
Tilda Swinton pulls off one of the most difficult and complex performances in recent years and it is a mind-blowing error that she did not get more recognition for her portrayal of a mother haunted by the sins on her child and the constant searching into her own memories to find out where she went wrong. Ezra Miller also elevated himself immediately, in the major up and coming talent category, with his terrifying and deeply inwardly troubled interpretation of Kevin.
However, it is the craft itself that leaves the most lasting impression. Time jumps without a moment’s notice but the film is peppered with enough hints so that you’re never lost as the tale and the characters unravel. The film has a blend of being highly surreal in a Kubrickian style, while also having many scenes so grounded in natural light and acting that it gives you the feeling of a person actually falling apart.
The musical, structural, shot composition, and color choices all work overtime and in perfect tandem to create a masterful manipulation of the art of film.
When you watch it give an extra close look at the usage of RED in the film, it is not subtle nor is it supposed to be, but it serves way beyond a memory of the color of blood.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the lost gems of 2011 and one that I believe not enough people are talking about. It was very well reviewed and received at festivals, but due to such power and depth it deserves to be regarded with much higher esteem and seen by more people.
I cannot wait until Lynn Ramsay makes another film. She is an original voice with an original eye and it is exhilarating to see what she will treat us to next.