Paul Malikkal

Review

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Paul Malikkal

As the film wore on, the casting of Tilda Swinton struck me as increasingly perfect. She can play the sympathetic, everywoman, but she can also play the everywoman who's concealing an ocean of repressed rage behind her eyes and is shocked when it suddenly spills out of her.That's crucial to the equating of mother and son that Ramsay seeds through the narrative-- easily the most fascinating element of the film for me (even when it's a tad contrived i.e., when Eva launches into a rant about fat people, that's completely inconsistent with what we know of her character). But what does it amount to? The notion that Eva shares and is responsible for Kevin's wickedness (most clearly conveyed in the arm-breaking scene) is largely undermined because Kevin is evil the second he leaves the womb. Eva is far from an ideal mother, but I doubt that even the ideal mother would fare much better when tasked with raising the devil incarnate. In other words, Ramsay leans too far to the nature side of the nature v.s. nurture question to really make me consider the latter. But that’s easy to ignore while marvelling the sheer spectacle of Ramsay’s frenzied narrative juggling act, with countless balls in the air at any given moment. The excessive cross-cutting should feel like a gimmick , but I think this fragmented, non-linear narrative style may be a better fit for her. I feel like her first two films, which are plotted linearly, Morvern Callar and Ratcatcher, grow tedious and start spinning in circles in the third act (thought they’re astonishing, formally). But juggling multiple timelines sustains the momentum of We Need to Talk About Kevin and the subsequent You Were Never Really Here to riveting effect.

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