Tilda Swinton & Rock Duer as Eva & Kevin in We Need To Talk About Kevin
Based upon the best selling novel by Lionel Shriver, We Need To Talk About Kevin follows Eva (Tilda Swinton) as she deals with the fact that her son, the eponymous Kevin, is responsible for a high school massacre.
Having read the book over a year ago, I was very intrigued to see how the page would become the screen. The book is written as a series of letters which gives it a superb narrative gimmick to gradually reveal the extent of Kevin's actions and the affects on Eva and the rest of the family. Having read an interview with Tilda Swinton, I had already seen that they had discarded trying to present the letters on screen, so just how would writer/director Lynne Ramsay handle it?
Eva is presented as almost otherworldly: she exists in a dreamlike state of shock, detached to a degree, but heavily affected by all around her. It’s as though she stands in the eye of a storm, the chaos around her muted by the strength to carry on and copious bottles of wine. Whereas the book utilises letters to get inside Eva's head, the film uses flashbacks; a disjointed chronological narrative and a magnificent performance from Swinton to bring the viewer into her world. We see key moments of her life from her days before she was pregnant with Kevin to what transpires after his birth.
Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin
Swinton's is a powerhouse in the part, sweeping through the emotions of giddy travel writer, expectant mother to postnatally depressed, to loving but frustrated and sometimes cowed throughout Kevin’s childhood, to grieving but determined after the tragedy. Her performance is aided by good supporting work from John C Reilly, as her hapless husband, and the young actors that play Kevin. Both Jasper Newell (Kevin in early childhood) and Ezra Miller exude utter contempt in a role that could so easily become a pantomime villain.
The flashbacks to young Kevin's formative years contain more humour than I remember in the book to the point where they almost seem like an extreme Dennis the Menace. There is also some humour when Kevin becomes an adolescent, but that soon gives way to his cold-blooded side.
Much emphasis is also made on Eva and Kevin's similarities: they both seem detached from the real world and see day to day life and happiness as mundane. It is perhaps these similarities that make Eva's life such a living hell as she understands only too well that the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
It certainly helps to have read the book first, but I don't believe it is a pre-requisite for enjoying it. We Need To Talk About Kevin stands alone and, although uncomfortable at times, makes for compelling viewing.
We Need To Talk About Kevin is showing at Broadway until Thursday 10 November