KATHMANDU: At the centre of We Need to Talk About Kevin is Tilda Swinton, acting as Eva in a fragmented movie brilliantly directed by Lynne Ramsay. The movie meanders in a tight sort of manner and you can’t stop watching it.
Kevin’s father is Franklin (John C Reilly) and sister is Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich).
Everywhere is the colour red from the opening when Eva tries to take the red from the front of her house — a part of an age-old tomato festival, and there is red in the tomato cans she hides behind in the department store.
Apparently a crime was committed so horrifying as to drive Eva over the edge to a place where she has no compassion left.
It is such a horrible crime that some towns’ people slap her and Eva would rather not be seen in public. For years she loved Kevin until he drained her of all emotion and towards the end all she’s got is a tight mouth which keeps back a scream and a drive away from her house to her parents’ stable home.
Kevin is seen at three ages. As a baby and toddler, he is merely colicky, irritating and would try the patience of a saint. Between the ages of six and eight years old, played by Jasper Newell, he is a clever little monster who glares at Eva hurtfully, soils his pants deliberately and drives her into such a fury that she breaks his arm. In any other movie, that would be child abuse. In this one, it is Kevin’s triumph.
As a teenager, Kevin (now played by Ezra Miller) has started to cruelly resemble his mother in profile and hairstyle. A demon seed. He is loving and affectionate with his father, Franklin, and has a way of making it clear that it’s a deliberate charade designed only to hurt Eva. Franklin lives in a state of demented decency, deceiving himself that his family is living acceptable lives.
John doesn’t really know what’s going on and is someone who sees no wrong even when things are not normal. For example, when his small daughter comes home with a glass-eye, Kevin is eating a lychee which looks like an eye and declares, it is an acquired taste.
The tones are too many making Eva wonder why she didn’t stay in Paris long before they were married. In an ordinary movie, there would be scenes in classrooms, meetings with counsellors, heart-to-heart discussions between the parents. Not here. They never talk about Kevin. I have the feeling that this film, by entering Eva’s mind, sees only what has been battering her down for 16 years.
Ramsay regularly cuts to a scene where Eva is driving her car past flashing police lights toward the scene of some tragedy. Maybe everything else is intended to be a flashback, and the timeline begins when she finds out what Kevin did at his high school. Then she goes home. Does she ever.
Eva often looks like she’s in a state of shock. Her body can’t absorb more punishment. She is the wrong person in the wrong life with the wrong child. Is her husband as zoned out as he seems or is that only her perception? As a portrait of a deteriorating state of mind, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful film. Swinton told me of a line in the script that wasn’t used, wisely, I believe. After you see the film, think about it. She asks Kevin why he didn’t kill her. His reply, “You don’t want to kill your audience.”