“We Need to Talk About Kevin”

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Look! Red! Tilda! This is the whole movie in one frame with CANNES of soup.

Fans of the Lionel Shriver novel from which it’s based are the lucky ones. It’s supposed to be great, but if you haven’t yet read the book, you might be left a little bit in the dark. One of the four female directors here at the festival, Lynne Ramsay creates a highly stylized universe for the horrific events that distances the viewer while allowing the true emotional psychosis of her protagonist to fill the screen.

“Kevin” follows Eva (the always phenomenal Tilda Swinton) in the events leading up to and right after her son Kevin (Miller) commits a Columbine style high school mass murder. If you know this chilling outcome, pieces are laid through out the movie that as you pick them up you see exactly how he’s going to do it, completely unbeknownst to the other characters. The movie weaves the past and present together in a quite unsettling way so you feel every rise and fall of Eva’s emotions. 

The film dives right into a first act filled with lots of imagery, style, tone, but not too much coherency. There’s a window, then a tomato fight, then Eva alone in a house, then Eva with her family in a different house. It’s all too easy to get lost in and makes the audience work to follow her. Ramsay also uses a lot of red through out the film, obviously to indicate the upcoming catastrophe. The color finds itself everywhere in the film as things go splat – tomatoes, paint, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – you name it. It’s never distracting if you don’t think about, unfortunately I did.

I was taken out of the deeper emotions in this movie so often by the one million song cues, the scenes that didn’t add any narrative except to say, “Oh, the main character is still feeling unsettled, but now in a scared way”, and also by the over the top acting of the two actors playing Kevin. I’m not going to say they were bad actors, they weren’t. There was a style choice made to have both actors play every scene with one sinister emotion. There is never a redeeming moment when, if we were to side with anyone in this movie, there should have been. You just want to shake all the characters in the film and tell them to stop it.

Maybe that’s part of the inevitability of the whole thing. Sometimes we know what’s going to happen and we are too powerless to stop it. That’s a bummer.

Cannes pun count: 2

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