{2jtab: Movie Review}

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Movie Review

5 stars

The age-old debate of nature vs. nurture gets an unsettling examination in We Need to Talk About Kevin, British filmmaker Lynne Ramsey’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s best-selling novel of the same name.

While the nature vs. nurture discussion typically initiates with hopes of understanding an individual’s cute little personality traits or peculiar habits, in We Need to Talk About Kevin, it’s specifically about whether a child can be born evil. Not “writing on the wall with crayons” evil or “cutting off Barbie’s head” evil. We’re talking “what might happen when Rosemary’s baby grows-up” evil.

The story is about the troubling relationship that develops between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her son Kevin (played as a teenager by Ezra Miller), who commits a horrific act of violence in the film’s finale.  Propelled into a smoldering sense of guilt and shame, Eva is left to reconcile her role in Kevin’s homicidal actions. We’ve seen films before that deal with the events surrounding horrific tragedies and the lasting aftermath on the public, victims, and friends. But rarely have we ever experienced such a revealing look at the effect on the other victims… the perpetrator’s family. This is a mother’s story.

As we first meet her, Eva is removing red paint from the siding of her house; lasting graffiti from unknown attackers. Her moves about town are met with burning stares and even physical assaults. Clearly not welcome in her own town, Eva is trying to put her life back together again.

Via a series of beautifully illustrated flashbacks, we’re threaded through the events that led to Eva’s eventual unraveling. Even as early as his infancy, it was clear something wasn’t quite right with Kevin (Rock Duer). He cries incessantly, often fixing on his mother with a devilish stare. He poops his diaper with a malicious giggle and as a young teenager, he continues to masturbate fiendishly even after she accidentally walks in on him. Kevin is destructive, vicious, evil. When a baby sister arrives, the viciousness – at worst enabled by his mother, written off as a “phase” by his father (John C. Reilly) – slowly turns to violence. By film’s end, Ramsey’s fractured narrative has taken us on a slowly disentangling downward spiral that eventually ends with the haunting familiarity of the violent destination that awaits.

Ramsey’s strong use of symbolism gives the film a soothing sense of beauty that swathes the impending doom in a comforting glow. The film is at its best in its first hour or so, when it is most daring. In the opening scenes we see Eva’s dream of being carried heroically aloft in the Spanish La Tomatina tomato festival - her body and the streets running red with crushed tomatoes. She awakens to the real-life nightmare of scrubbing red paint from her house. Doom is foreshadowed throughout the movie by transitions to oozing strawberry jelly or globs of bright crimson ketchup which meld into flashing red emergency vehicle lights. Baby Kevin’s cries turn into wailing sirens. Ramsey’s film is far removed from biting social commentary - and forget the accusations of misogyny that suggest the mother is the cause of Kevin’s sociopathic behavior.  Ramsey instead presents us with a provocative moral ambiguity which builds to a chilling, unforgettable climax.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a gripping film, but also one that is sometimes grueling and difficult to watch due to its subject matter. Swinton mesmerizes with her brilliant performance as a mother left to absorb the ravages of a sociopathic son. Many families, especially those who have been touched by tragedy, will hopefully be prompted to further family discussion. But as the title suggests, many certainly won’t.

{2jtab: Film Details}

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language.
: Lynne Ramsay
: Lynne Ramsay
Tilda Swinton; John C. Reilly; Ezra Miller; Jasper Newell; Rock Duer
: Drama | Thriller
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Memorable Movie Quote: "I used to think I knew. Now I'm not so sure."
Oscilloscope Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: December 9, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: A suspenseful and psychologically gripping exploration into a parent dealing with her child doing the unthinkable, We Need to Talk About Kevin is told from the perspective of Eva, played by Tilda Swinton in a tour-de-force performance.

Always an ambivalent mother, Eva and Kevin have had a contentious relationship literally from Kevin's birth. Kevin (Ezra Miller), now 15-years-old, escalates the stakes when he commits a heinous act, leaving Eva to grapple with her feelings of grief and responsibility, as well as the ire of the community-at-large. "We Need to Talk About Kevin" explores nature vs. nurture on a whole new level as Eva's own culpability is measured against Kevin's innate evilness, while Ramsay's masterful storytelling leaves enough moral ambiguity to keep the debate going.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}


We Need to Talk About Kevin


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 29, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Playback: Region A reviewed

Oscilloscope, providing We Need to Talk About Kevin’s encode on a dual-layer disc, is a fantastically realized 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer.  Framed in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer’s image keeps the film’s precise and purely filmic look with good levels of grain and a consistent contrast that remains sharp. There is fine detail present throughout and smartly so, revealing the grittiness of the picture with great closeups revealing features and textures. Again, the contrast never looks artificial – even in the flashback scenes - and colors are deep.  Black levels, too, are strong throughout. The picture is punctuated with a commanding lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track which is important because there is so much texture to this family drama and a lot of it is done through the immersive surround sound.  Turn it up and keep your ears peeled for the sound of water sprinklers.



  • None

Special Features:

Oscilloscope usually takes pride in their releases and this one is no different. Housed in an artsy fold-out recycled cardboard package that is shielded by a slipcover, the packaging comes with artwork, photos, and a short essay on the film by psychoanalyst Mark Stafford. The featurettes start with a nice collection of interviews with cast and crew that very comprehensive about the film’s production. Each member also weighs in on the subject matter of the film. In another featurette, we get some raw footage at the tomato festival in Bunol, Spain. There’s also a Q & A session with actress Tilda Swinton and another with the author of the book Lionel Shriver about bringing his book to life on the screen.

  • Behind the Scenes of Kevin (27 min)
  • Extra Footage from "La Tomatina" Tomato Festival (4 min)
  • In Conversation with Tilda Swinton (18 min)
  • Interview with Lionel Shriver (4 min)
  • Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}