The shot just after We Need To Talk About Kevin's terrific and tomato-laden opening scene is almost straight out of Lynne Ramsay's first film Ratcatcher, and warns the familiar viewer that death is not too far away. What follows those moonlit curtains is a dream-like or rather, nightmarish, masterpiece and one of the best films I've seen in quite a while. Hit the jump for my review.
Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a successful travel journalist who meets the man of her dreams (John C Reilly), gets married and, as usual, falls pregnant. From the outset though, something is rotten in the state of her pregnancy, and after her first child (Kevin) is born, Eva is forced to contend with his ever increasing malevolence and apparent hatred of her. She is no mother Theresa either, and her unhappiness and occasional mistreatment of Kevin is soon pitted against his inherent and increasingly evil nature. Are a mother's emotions carried through to her child even when she is pregnant? How do her actions as a parent influence the child's development? Most importantly, how will she ever understand the reasons for her child's behaviour? When bad things start to happen, a mother is confronted with these questions, and in order to free herself from heartbreak and guilt, will have to answer them. The devastating truth though, is that these are questions that can never be answered.
From the opening shot until time's up, Lynne Ramsay effectively utilises powerful imagery, visual and otherwise, in order to stir up every possible nightmarish emotion. The entire film is dripping in red (we all know what that means), from the undulating mass of tomato slathered La Tomatina Festival goers in the opening scenes to red paint, strawberry jam, canned soup and even the ball she so desperately wants Kevin to roll back to her. Once Kevin is conceived, the mechanical racket of jack-hammers, circular saws and orbital sanders haunt every facet of Eva's past, present and future. Her occasional respite comes in the form of an awesome folksy soundtrack, but the ballads of Buddy Holly, Lonnie Donegan, The Beach Boys and even Wham! have an alternative motive: being extremely efficient at creeping the hell out of the audience. Mundane, everyday activities are turned into horrors the mind cannot comprehend. Since when did a jam sandwich, eating a litchi or chewing your nails make you want to cover your eyes? It's with these devices that Lynne Ramsay turned We Need To Talk About Kevin into one of the most horrifically nonviolent films you will ever see.
Apart from the vivid imagery, We Need To Talk About Kevin finds its strength in the performances. Tilda Swinton puts on an absolutely phenomenal display as the tormented Eva, and her not being nominated by the Academy was one of the worst snubs in recent Oscar history. Kudos should also go to Rock Duer, Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller, the terrific trio of young actors who had the unenviable task of being Kevin as he grows up. John C Reilly, being one of my favourite actors, was the perfect dad. I am really happy to see him back in a dramatic role again. Seriously, the overall calibre of performances in this film is something you don't see very often.
We Need To Talk About Kevin is pure magic, is a haunting and disturbing masterpiece, it's a nightmare you don't want to end because you fear what's coming, it's a whole new take on family dynamics, it's Rosemary's Baby for the modern age (Eva even has the same pram) and most importantly, it's coming to a theatre near you this weekend. Do not miss it.
9 out of 10