There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin since its debut in Cannes earlier this year. Following the aftermath of a high school massacre at the hands of the eponymous Kevin and told through a combination of flashbacks and the present day life of his mother, Eva, Kevin serves up a brutal look at post-natal depression and sociopathy.
The film opens with a billowing curtain inviting us to look behind but as we approach in Eva’s footsteps we are thrust into a writhing mass of bodies drenched in the thick crimson of La Tomatina festival. Despite the rapturous expression upon Eva’s face the scene is an ominous foreboding of the bloodbath that will bring her world crashing down. Ramsay continues to play with red imagery from lens flare and the hue of the flashback scenes through to the everyday jam, ketchup and soup that acts as a background when she flees the mother of one of Kevin’s victims.
These constant references to blood felt occasionally overdone but ultimately bring home that her entire life is seeped in blood even through to her memory and like the the specks of red paint thrown matted in her hair, can never be removed.
Ramsay skilfully sews together the multiple timelines and flashbacks into a well-ordered narrative that never feels jumbled or mismatched. Scenes from Kevin’s childhood and the present day are cleverly interspersed to reflect past and present themes such as Kevin’s unwillingness to partake in a childhood game and his reticence to speak to Eva in juvenile detention. Such compositions allow us to delve into the psyches of the characters and offer some interesting food for thought on the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Having said that, the debate is largely one sided in favour of Nature being the determiner of all things and could be a little more nuanced.
Whilst Kevin and Eva’s minds are dissected for our inspection, cue the gruesome Lychee, Franklin and Ceila’s characters are tragically shallow with the latter feeling more like a poorly fleshed-out plot mechanism than a daughter on equal terms in her parents’ lives.
Whatever emotional resonance is lost through the (all too) peripheral characters is made up by Tilda Swinton’s acting prowess. Every single close up of her face, of which there are many, is powerful and justified. Her ability to pack an emotional punch with an expression , ranging from abject terror when confronted by children in fancy dress celebrating Haloween to complete ecstasy of Kevin’s screams being inaudible of a workman’s jack-hammer, is truly impressive.
The soundtrack also worked very well with nostalgic, wholesome chunks of Americana juxtaposing the bleak unfolding events to expose the ultimate irony of the situation.
A technically stunning film that will have you gasping for breath at times, Kevin, whilst lacking a certain nuance and depth undoubtedly deserves the praise heaped upon it.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is released 21st October and will be showing at the Hyde Park Picture House .