We Need To Talk About Kevin

There is a relentlessness to Lynne Ramsey‘s adaptation of novel We Need To Talk About Kevin that takes a hold of the viewer and pulls them into the shattered world of Tilda Swinton‘s Eva. Events have ripped the core from Eva – who we first see rolling in a sea of red tomatoes at a Spanish festival – but it is hard to say exactly at what point did her inner self start to slip away.

There is the titular Kevin’s set of murders which rip the soul from Eva – but there is an unsettling sense of never having attached to her child which is equally upsetting. Eva could not be further from Cecilia Roth‘s Manuela in Pedro Almodóvar 1999 classic Todo Sobre Me Madre.

Manuela’s relationship with moribund Esteban is heartwarming, but it is her heart that is ripped out when her son is killed. Never has an actress shown such such hollowing out. Manuela’s pains transcends language but Almodóvar is kind, and brings her a new purpose which Eva never finds.

In Steven Soderbergh‘s 1998 Out of Sight the director brings a star making turn from Steven Zahn as small time hood Glenn Michaels who vertically integrates himself into a crew of villains more sadistic than he could have thought. Soderbergh balances the romantic thief criminality of Michaels with a more modern, and nasty, urban crime. Michaels is unable to process the senselessness of what he has seen and a light shuts out in his eyes. Zahn has never matched that performance.

It is a deft adaptation of Elmore Leonard‘s novel unlike Bryan Singer‘s mishandled 1998 Stephen King work Apt Pupil. King’s story is related to We Need To Talk About Kevin detailing the progression of Brad Renfro‘s Todd from young teen to serial killer focusing entirely on the inch by inch progression and not on the violence itself. The film ends with Todd pushing Ross from Friends and sneering, and seems to miss the point entirely.

More on the point is Rafal Zielinski‘s 1994 dark work Fun in which two young girls appear to callously murder an old woman because they enjoy committing he act of violence. There is a seduction to Zielinski’s film which draws the reader in trying to forgive either of the two girls of the crime to grab onto any hopefulness that might come or at least understand a reason that the girls have gone bad.

Reasons are there perhaps, but the real skill of Zielinski’s film – which was overshadowed by Peter Jackson‘s Heavenly Creatures that came out in the same year – is that it only hints at those reasons and was the viewer joins the dots in the trail left behind one can never be sure that the connections are not what you would like to see, rather than what is.

The same is true in Kevin. For all the detail we see through Eva’s eyes we are only left with a part of the story, and we are troubled by what we have not seen more than what we have.


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