Friday, 21 October 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lynne Ramsey (2011)

  1. We Need to Talk About Kevin is an excellent adaptation of Lionel Shriver's unpleasant 2003 novel of the same name.
  2. You better like looking at Tilda Swinton's face because that's what you'll be doing, almost uninterruptedly, for 118 minutes. In fact, you probably won't have spent this long scrutinising another human being's facial set-up since There Will Be Blood. Swinton's face is polarising along sex lines, women love it and go on about how striking she is, while men can't really see what all the fuss is about. The facial equivalent of Ugg Boots. If you find Tilda Swinton's face a bit pointy and annoying, that's one more way in which this movie will be something of an ordeal.
  3. Speaking of faces, you've probably also noticed that John C. Reilly, who plays Franklin, has the face of dwarf.
  4. If you're bulimic, or sitophobic, you're going to love this. All food in this film is absolutely disgusting, tending to the slimy, brightly-coloured and sticky, and anyone eating does so noisily, and with the gristly eating noises turned right up into the red. This is so deliberate and sadistic that it can only suggest a point is being made about the family table being the battleground where animal appetites are domesticated. Kevin's awful table manners are just one symptom of a pathology that refuses civilisation. Wanking vigorously in front of his mother being another. (Spoiler. Whoops, sorry.)
  5. Lionel Shriver is a woman, she changed her name by deed poll from Mary Ann Shriver when she was 14. We Need to Talk About Kevin was her seventh novel and she published her first in 1986. She described it as her 'make or break book' and this may go some way to explaining its nihilistic tone and subject matter. And don't try pulling any of that dated death-of-the-author shit. Within the film the question of who made Kevin, and therefore who takes responsibility for him, is a surrogate for the question 'who made evil'? Outside the film we know who made Kevin: it was Lionel Shriver.
  6. The screenplay is by Lynne Ramsey and Rory Stewart Kinnear. Kinnear is Ramsey's partner, not the son of Roy Kinnear who last year won the Evening Standard award for best actor.
  7. Ezra Miller is superb as the adolescent Kevin. His performance owes just a little to Heath Ledger's quieter moments in The Dark Knight and a lot to Malcolm McDowell's Alex in A Clockwork Orange. The ingredients for just this kind of sociopath are sinister composure, cherry red lips, slim-hipped adolescent sexuality and some great one-liners - then you just have to look like you're having a marvellous time at those times when other characters are at their most uncomfortable.
  8. All the interior shots at Eva's house come straight from Nan Goldin. It makes you wonder whether at the pitch they just gave them the book and this Harper's Bazaar shoot and said 'like that, but without the leopards.'
  9. If you secretly fear and dislike children and you're trying to dissuade your partner from ever having any so you can devote your moneyed middle age to sex with mid-priced escorts and  golf, try inviting them to watch this film on a triple bill with Rosemary's Baby and Eraserhead.
  10. The film takes place entirely in flashback, or at least, it has no primary narrative for the flashbacks to flash-back into. The viewer's sense of where he's at is almost entirely dependent on which wig Tilda Swinton is wearing, and how much paint there is on her house. Freud characterised the subconscious as without temporal extension - so it makes sense for a film that deals acutely with trauma and the formation of subconscious to take place outside time. Neat hey?


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  3. In the previous two decades, the frequency of kids murdering others has significantly expanded. This story by Lionel Shriver dives into the life and musings of a mother of one of these vicious youngsters. View More