In Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s epistolary novel of the same name, the audience follows Eva Khatchadourian’s (Tilda Swinton) ongoing struggle with her problematic child, Kevin (Ezra Miller).
From birth, Kevin has devilish qualities, ones which only his mother is subject to. On the contrary, in the eyes of his father, Franklin (John C. Reilly), Kevin is the ideal son. This inevitably creates a strong divide between Eva and Franklin, where the latter accuses Eva of being a bad mother.
Kevin begins to procure a great interest in the sport of archery, as encouraged by his father. To no surprise, this flippant hobby becomes practice for the Columbine-esque murder he soon commits. The film shadows the guilt and discrimination Eva is suffering in the present with her personal visions to past of Kevin growing up, maybe on some level trying to figure out what her role was in creating a satanic child.
The audience instantly sympathise with Eva, due to her previous struggles with Kevin’s behaviour whilst also presently being blamed by society for her son’s heinous crime, for example when a mother violently slaps her on the street. This immediately conjures up the question – Are the parents always to blame for their children’s actions? If so, why is the mother always held at fault for her child’s problems, rather than the father? Other than Eva’s (what seems like) post-natal depression, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between Kevin’s rebellion and her role as a mother.
Alternatively, as the film primarily focuses on Eva’s point of view, much like the novel, one must question the reliability of the narrative. Is she purposely putting the audience in the dark by narrating a story which favours her?
I think not. Eva seems to be silently suffering the burden of her own son’s crime, which is evident when two religious men come doorstepping, and ask her if she knows where she’s spending the after life, to which she nonchalantly replies: “Oh! Yes, I do as a matter of fact! I’m going straight to hell. Eternal damnation, the whole bit. Thanks for asking! Ok?”
On another note, the interest in photography from Ramsay and cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey, is evident throughout the film, which displays several picturesque mise-en-scènes which are laden with symbolism. The beautiful colour pallet of the film displayed dull hues with striking hints of red, blue and yellow, creating strong visuals for the viewer.
Ultimately, Ramsay’s depiction of Shriver’s novel is beautiful to watch, even when the narrative is a particularly unsettling vision into parenthood.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
director LYNNE RAMSAY
director of photography SEAMUS MCGARVEY
cast TILDA SWINTON, JOHN C. REILLY and EZRA MILLER
words PRIYESH PATEL
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