Friday, July 6, 2012
Enough to Warn Me Off Becoming a Parent.
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Written by: Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear, based on the novel 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rock Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich, Alex Manette, Kenneth Franklin.
Running time: 107 min.
As a teenager, I'll be the first to admit that we are scary little creatures. I mean, really scary. Okay, so I'm not a parent, but it must be so disappointing when you spend all of that time being excited over having a tiny bundle of innocent youth...that turns into a huge bundle of angst. Yeah, that's probably an underestimation of teens (because I don't like being underestimated).
Or maybe I'm taking that idea straight from We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Eva (Tilda Swinton) and Franklin (John C. Reilly) fall in love. At that point, Eva is a successful travel writer who has been places, and wishes to keep going places. However, she and Franklin get married, and have a son called Kevin, which puts her plans on an indefinite hold. While Franklin instantly warms to his son, Eva feels doesn't feel any connection to him, partly because of the fact that she'd much rather be pursuing other interests. She can't control his constant crying - even standing by a jackhammer and revelling in the relief that that annoying sound makes, or control her son, as a matter of fact. And this is only when he's young.
Yes, he turns into a huge bundle of angst (played by Ezra Miller). But a bundle of angst that is mixed in with violence and the incomprehensible need to hurt people. This turns into something that Eva couldn't predict, and something that is so wildly out of her hands, yet she feels responsible for the mass amount of pain that Kevin has caused to, well, everyone.
This film is by no means a conventional one. In a night that offered me four considerably different films, We Need to Talk About Kevin stuck out like a sore thumb: not only because it was by far the most impressive movie of the night, but because it really didn't feel like a movie experience. It was hard for me to fully articulate what kind of experience that We Need to Talk About Kevin was drawing me into. But when a surprise earthquake hit half way through - even despite the fact that earthquakes are my worst fear in the world and I was at home alone with no lights on - I felt more terrified than I had ever been in my life. This was because I felt that Kevin was responsible.
As an audience, we're drawn into the way that Eva sees everything. There's never a point where we see anything from Kevin's perspective, so we're never really told why he is doing what he is doing. This is perhaps the feature that I loved the most. I've always been far more interested in seeing how one's extreme action affects someone else, instead of just seeing the extreme action. Through a fragmented storyline, we are shown Kevin as a kid and Kevin as a teenager, along with Eva dealing with Kevin as a child and then the aftermath that he creates. The film doesn't get straight to the point or lay everything out for us at once. In other hands, when Kevin gets to his final evil act we would have seen the actual thing happen with all the gory details displayed on screen. However, the film is just as effective - if not more effective - by playing it out in a short, yet extremely disturbing sequence, and enclosing it in an envelope of a mother's guilt. For Eva, it was like the letter that she half-heartedly expected but never thought would arrive. We see all of the words form on the letter through Eva's eyes. The trouble with this letter is that some of the words are one's that she can't understand, but they all culminate to say one thing: "This is all your fault."
We Need to Talk About Kevin isn't just a portrait of mass-destruction, it is a portrait of helplessness. Eva wasn't the one who killed a whole lot of students, but she footed the blame for it because being the parent, she is the one responsible for making her kid the way he is. Being a teenager, I know that if I were to ever do anything like that, my parents definitely wouldn't have anything to do with it. However, people don't see it that way. Eva has been helpless all of her life: helplessly in love, helplessly disconnected to her son, helplessly trying to her life even though she's plagued by guilt because of actions that were beyond her control. Tilda Swinton's masterful performance is what makes this portrait come to life. Heart-wrenching life. It was devastatingly real, adding to the notion that this wasn't really a film. Her performance is amplified by the shocking use of red in the cinematography and production design, always there as a reminder of either the guilt or the violence that is playing out around her, keeping her trapped. Lynne Ramsay's direction keeps this a tense, shocking, terrifying portrayal of something that I hope will never happen to me, but was so realistic that I've been warned off parenting for a wee while.
Do we need to talk about Kevin? Well, yes. We need to talk about how great Ezra Miller is as Kevin. That's one actor who we'll be talking about for years to come. Once he hits the big time - which I'm sure won't take that long - we can all look back on this rather overlooked film from 2011 that deserved a few Oscars but unfortunately came back with no dice. And it has the distinct achievement of making archery look uncool in a year filled with heroes that use a bow and arrow as their weapon of choice.
What I got: