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Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

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5/5

Normally when a film ends in the cinema the credits start rolling, the lights go up and people start talking. At the end of We Need To Talk About Kevin the room was uncomfortably silent. It’s unsurprising - this is an intensely disturbing film.

We Need to Talk About KevinIt deals, in short, with a parent/child relationship. So far, so generic. Except the child in this case is Kevin, the psychopathic perpetrator of a high-school massacre, and the parent is his mother, re-examining in painful detail her own treatment of Kevin and the uncomfortable truth about whether she ever actually loved him. 

As a film where dramatics could have been the easy way out, We Need To Talk About Kevin is all the more resonant for its emotional restraint. There is symbolism – most noticeably of the Lady Macbeth OCD hand-washing kind – but this is never so obvious as to be jarring. The acting is faultless; Ezra Miller manages to be creepily attractive as an evil killer, and for a woman tortured by herself and her community for crimes she did not commit, Tilda Swinton creates a character at times hard to sympathise with.

The antagonistic chemistry between mother and son is twisted and fascinating, subverting ideas about unconditional love and parental responsibility. John C Reilly is on form as the perfect father, whose own loving relationship with Kevin raises more questions about the roots of Kevin's actions – how far is he inherently evil, ably manipulating his parents, and how far is he reacting against a mother who was happier without him?

It is an uncomfortably gripping film and one that forces difficult questions. What if you have a child you don’t like? What if said child becomes a mass murderer? To call it a masterpiece may not, in this case, be exaggerating – visually and emotionally this is a chilling and powerful exploration of guilt, manipulation and parenthood. It is a film that you should probably see. Having said that, I don’t think I ever want to see it again.

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