Movie Review–We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin
UK/USA, 2011

Written by Lynne Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear
Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller
1hr 52min
Rated R for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language

Available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus


We Need to Talk About Kevin is a dreadful movie. Not a bad movie, but literally full of dread. Every scene is thick with it, and as the credits roll it lingers for an uncomfortably long time.

Having prefaced this way it feels weird for me to say with any sense of enthusiasm, “Hey you should really see this movie. It’s fantastic!” But I’m going to say it. See it. Not only is it a well-crafted story with some stunning performances (maybe Tilda Swinton’s finest) but it’s an important portrait of a very real evil that we face in today’s society.

The story follows Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton) through the trials of motherhood. Being a mom is hard enough, but Eva’s situation is complicated. It seems she’s given birth to a sociopath. This is not a spoiler alert. It’s obvious from a very early stage in the narrative that Kevin is profoundly disturbed. That’s what fills the movie with dread. Kevin will do evil things, and we know he will continue to do evil things. And that’s basically the story. Ok, not really. The real story is how his actions destroy his family, how they cope with it, and how Eva is steadfast in the face of such evil. I won’t tell you how the movie ends, but it won’t shock you. It will make complete sense.

we-need-to-talk-about-kevinI categorized this movie as Horror not just because of how it feels, but because it deals with a monster. Kevin isn’t necessarily that monster, but he is the embodiment of it. He is a representation of one of the scariest monstrosities we face–helplessness. It’s hard to say what makes Kevin so evil. He seems to be evil from birth, and nothing seems to really make a difference. There is a moment in the movie when Eva has a major breakthrough with Kevin, or so she thinks. It actually turns out to be the beginning of a very disturbing desire in Kevin’s heart. But who could foresee that?

Eva is not a bad mother. She is a very realistic one, with doubts and fears and more than anything a stubborn resolve to make it work with her son. We cannot blame her for the way she handles her situation. We can argue against her decisions using reason, but as the Coen brothers tell us, “It’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.”

Many IMDB reviewers have described We Need to Talk About Kevin as a depressing film. Perhaps. But there is a bit of inspiration to take from it, and that comes from Eva’s resilience. She still finds small moments of joy in her life, and by the time the movie ends, we have a feeling she will eventually find some kind of happiness and peace. I don’t think was meant to be a “message movie” but I think we can take something away from it. For me, the message is that evil can (and probably will) try to grind us down, but there will always be goodness and joy for us, as long as we don’t stop looking for it.



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