We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay from the novel by Lionel Shriver, has been receiving mostly favorable reviews, I must say though that I found it oddly unsatisfying. The story, which is mostly told through flashbacks, is about Eva (Tilda Swinton), who has had a difficult relationship with her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), since the latter’s infancy. He spurns her attempts at affection, and he is often willfully disobedient towards her. Kevin’s father, Franklin (John C. Reilly), however, sees nothing wrong, because Kevin always behaves himself when he is around. During his senior year, Kevin takes an archery bow that Franklin gave him and kills a number of his teachers and fellow students with it. He also kills his father and his sister, Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich).

Those hoping that this film will teach them something about the psychology of a school shooter will be disappointed. Kevin’s behavior is never explained. The biggest weakness of this film – and it’s a very big weakness in my view – is that we are told absolutely nothing about Kevin’s relationships with his fellow students or with his teachers. Are we really supposed to believe that Kevin kills these people just because he has an unhappy relationship with his mother? I don’t buy it. And why does he kill Franklin and Celia, who are both kind to him?

Of course, this film is really about Eva and not Kevin. It is about her attempts to make sense out of what has happened. After the killings, Eva remains in the town so she can visit Kevin at the nearby prison. The people either shun her or are openly hostile to her. (Apparently the fact that her own husband and daughter were killed doesn’t elicit the least amount of sympathy from them. This is another detail in the film that I found a bit hard to believe.) When a woman smashes Eva’s eggs at the supermarket, Evan insists on buying them and eating them anyway. This suggests that Eva feels responsible for what her son did. In the final scene, Eva hugs Kevin before he is taken to Sing Sing prison. She has forgiven him. But are there not some things that are unforgivable? After all, Kevin caused suffering to many people, not just his mother. It’s a problematic ending to a nearly two-hour film about people being extremely unpleasant to one another.

2 Responses to “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

  1. markie Says:

    Thank you so much for your review on We Need to talk about Kevin. I have read a ton of reviews on this movie. All my co-workers at Dish told me I should see this disturbing film. A lot of them feel sorry for Eva and honestly based off what I read I don’t know what I would do if I were Eva and had a son like Kevin. I ran across it in Blu-ray on Blockbuster @Home and I should be getting it in the mail today. Hopefully I can go home and watch it.

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