We Need To Talk About Kevin is a film I’d heard a lot of great things about prior to watching it, not least from Mark Kermode who declared it his favourite film of 2011.
While one friend said he didn’t see the film because he didn’t think it could match up to the book, by Lionel Shriver, I had to say that I’m a complete book-philistine and so always wait for a film to be made before I imbibe.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay, filming just her third full-length feature, we see Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) going for sectarial job interview at a travel agent company in an office that looks like it was built in the ’70s and has never been updated. Her run-down shack of a house is targeted by yobs and splashed with lots of red paint and, after the interview, she is hit in the face by a random passer by, as if it’s some sort of bizarre dream sequence playing out. In fact, there are several weird moments that, at first, serve no explanation but as you begin to watch the film, they do make a lot more sense.
Early on, we know that her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), is 15 and has done something unimaginable which, at first, is not revealed. However, we know it has devastated a community. That is all we are told and it remains a mystery for the majority of the film.
Changing between present day, where Eva is single and looking for work, and back when Kevin was born and growing u and she lived with her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) and, later, young daughter Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich), we see her son being incessantly nasty to Eva during his entire life, some examples being his creation of a virus-ridden CD which kills her laptop; a scene where he heartily tucks into some chicken just as he and Eva are about to go out to dinner, a moment where Eva even accidentally opens his bedroom door just as he’s whacking off, and he gives her an evil, gleeful look as he continues to masturbate at a pace.
He even stoops so low as, we later learn, to getting out some bleach and leaving it within reaching distance for Celia, causing her to suffer permanent disfigurement.
Meanwhile, Franklin either seems completely oblivious to what a monster his son is, or just tries to mentally shut it out as if it’s not happening. All the while, Kevin is wholly unrepetent about what he’s done.
When it comes to the acting, Tilda Swinton is outstanding in her role as the mother who can’t work out where her parenting skills went out the window, and equally good is Ezra Miller as Kevin. In fact, they complement each other perfectly as they both have an androgynous look.
That said, what takes the edge off is that it’s just one nasty event from Kevin after another and, for the most part, there’s nothing that makes it perfect like I’d been led to believe. However, it is a must-see, for sure.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the image looks crisp and clear with zero faults. Unlike so many 2.35:1 films these days, it’s shot in anamorphic Panavision, giving the picture a classy depth so lacking in modern cinema. Most films of that width are shot in Super 35, which is almost like filming in 16:9 and sticking the black bars on top – save for the CGI effects which are often created specifically for the intended cinema ratio. Okay, so Super 35 isn’t that simplified but it’s very much the format for directors who can’t be bothered to think, so I’m glad that Lynne Ramsay has gone with Panavision here.
Audio-wise, the film is presented in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio (for which I have a DD5.1 setup) and there is great use of sound, more than you’d expect from a drama, but the extreme bass and use of split-surround FX is done to highlight the state of Eva’s mind.
The extras are as follows:
- Interviews (15:20): Split into 9 chapters over the brief running time, you cannot select them individually from the menu, so have to skip through. Here we see Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Lynne Ramsay, all very briefly talking about the film. The contributors change back and forth so it’s best to watch in one go as the chapters are badly placed and, bizarrely, fall in the middle of sentences.
- Audio descriptive track: Does what it says on the tin.
- Trailer (1:42): In 2.35:1 and, for a trailer, it doesn’t spoil things, which is quite a rarity. Instead it takes a series of seemingly random clips and makes it look more abstract, so as to give you a flavour of the content and nothing more.
The menu just features ‘Kevin’s eyes in an almost static pose with no background music. Chaptering is very disappointing with just 12 across the 112-minute running time. On the plus side, there are subtitles in English.
Running time: 112 minutes
Date of release: February 27th 2012
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Cat no: ART029BD
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Producers: Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg and Robert Salerno
Screenplay: Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear (based on the novel by Lionel Shriver)
Music: Jonny Greenwood
Eva Khatchadourian: Tilda Swinton
Franklin: John C. Reilly
Kevin, Teenager: Ezra Miller
Kevin, 6-8 Years: Jasper Newell
Kevin, Toddler: Rock Duer
Celia: Ashley Gerasimovich
Wanda: Siobhan Fallon Hogan
Colin: Alex Manette
Soweto: Kenneth Franklin
Smash Lady: Leslie Lyles
Corrections Officer Al: Paul Diomede
Corrections Officer: Michael Campbell
Prison Boy: J. Mal McCree
Eva’s Lawyer: Mark Elliot Wilson
Dr. Foulkes: James Chen
Dr. Goldblatt: Lauren Fox
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.