Readers Recommendations: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

we_need_to_talk_about_kevin_posterHey everyone, it’s Friday, time for another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate!
ClaratsiThis time up, our movie recommendation comes from Kevin Clare over at Claratsi’s Movie Review, who’s suggested 2011’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin”.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” was making the rounds when I first began blogging, but being a limited release film, I never got to it. Still, I’ve heard good thing and have been curious to see it. I was glad Kevin recommended it!
Click through to see what we had to say!

My questions in bold. Kevin’s answers below!

1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?
I watched it on Sky Movies, one of those mid-week sit downs, not really planned just heard decent things about it and knew it was based on a book. Often those impromptu watches turn out to be very rewarding!
2)Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?

As a study of the isolation of what is essentially single parenting (the husband is annoyingly oblivious) it is so sad, frustrating and compelling. You really go through the mill with Swinton’s mom and it’s every bit a mystery as to why when there is seemingly no rhyme or reason for the son’s behavior.

3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?

I think it has a well liked standing among those who HAVE seen it, there is so much to like about it, whether it is totally loyal to the book I don’t know, but I think it is regarded as good an adaptation as is possible. don’t think it really registered on the pop culture radar as it’s far from mainstream film making.

4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?

I thought you had seen everything! It’s sad, uncomfortable and compelling and Swinton’s performance is heartbreaking and frustrating in equal measure as she continues to love her son unconditionally; posing the question of how far can parental love be stretched!?

5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )

Yeh, I wrote a review sometime ago now you can view it here for more on my thoughts.

Thanks Kevin! My Review is below!

Right from the opening moments, I could tell this would be an interesting film. A shot of a curtain billowing in a dark room cuts sharply to an overhead view of a chaotic crowd indulging in some sort of festival. The horde of people smear each other with red paint? Juice? Tilda Swinton’s character awakes in the morning to find her house and car have been splattered with red paint. She interviews for what is obviously a miserable job, and seems extremely grateful to get it. Shortly thereafter, she gets punched in the face by woman who seems to be a stranger.

It’s revealed relatively quickly that her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller) was responsible for an act of violence at his school.

Clearly, she has emotional issues now, post-incident, but it’s her emotional state as she raised her child that’s drawn into question. Through flashbacks, we’re shown her pregnancy with her son, the delivery, and the difficulty she had nurturing him as an infant. She wasn’t of a mindset to be a mother in the first place, and had difficulty being affectionate to him as an a newborn. As he grew, we’re shown that he developed into a little psychopath at an early age. He acted hostilely towards his mother, and defied her at every turn. When his father (John C Reilly) was around, however, he would act like a little angel, which isolated her even further. He would frequently act out destructively as he got older and after responding once with violence, she began to distance herself from him altogether.

Throughout it all there was a lack of emotional connection, and a complete failure to communicate… between her and her son, her and her husband, her and everyone.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” at times feels like a horror movie. Due to the flashback construction, there’s a sense of fatal inevitability to the proceedings. And the present tense (post tragedy) is frightening as well. Neighbors are constantly staring. Swinton’s character carries a vacant expression as she sleepwalks through her life. Normal objects are highlighted as disturbing images, as we’re left to see things through her damaged, distorted perception. 

This film was artfully directed by Lynne Ramsay. At times, it ventures into art house territory, but the story and characters are so compelling that none of it feels self-indulgent. The visual style helps support a tense story and first-rate performances.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a haunting film that delves into a disturbing phenomena at this point in America, and presents no clear or easy answers. It leaves you instead with plenty of food for thought. It’s a well crafted, challenging film that provides a gripping watch.


Daniel Fogarty


51 thoughts on “Readers Recommendations: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

  1. Very good film. The premise, central performances, and overall execution are bold and carried out with aplomb. I loved it.

  2. Great review. I really loved this film… it’s seriously harrowing!… I was left sitting in the theatre at end, kind of emotionally drained by the whole experience. It’s not the most subtle film in the world but it’s hugely powerful, looks great and with great performances.

    • Definitely powerful. I… wasn’t as awed by Swinton as many people are, though. Not saying she wasn’t good, but for a lot of it, her character was too detached. I understand that’s the point, I’m just saying, it didnt bowl me over.

      Absolutely a powerful movie though. You’re not going to be able to watch it lightly, that’s for sure! 😯

  3. A very deep, dark, and disturbing film. Still surprised that Swinton didn’t get a nomination for this because I really thought she would have given Davis and Streep a run for their money. Or at least I would have hoped so. Nice review bud.

    • Thanks Dan-o.

      I guess I understand why she would get passed over though. She was very good, but the role doesn’t allow her all that much range. She was emotionally stunted, so she never really got to show highs too high or lows too low, even post tragedy. She just kind of zoned out. I understand the character, and she was very good with it, I’m just suggesting that might have worked against her in consideration for those types of things…

  4. Question: i have only noticed it in the last few months and it interests me that how come that certain films only get limited release in the US? It was the same with Stoker and many others as well.

    • Ughk. Its a sore spot for me.

      It’s a pretty competitive business, selling seats in front of screens. Theatre owners would prefer films that are going to sell tickets than movies that are good. Studios determine which movies are worthy of huge ad campaigns, and those are the ones that get into national release. Others, which they dont deem as commercial, they put into limited release, hoping word of mouth will build. If it does, they “roll it out”, expanding into more theatres nationwide. If not? Its off to DVD and Blu with it. 😦

      • That’s quite depressing. You miss out on many good movies. Plus the word of mouth doesn’t really work if you only have 2 cinemas in the whole country showing the movie. 😦 Anyway…Thank you for the info.

  5. It sounds interesting. But it also sounds like a major downer. I would guess it is one of theose movies that you feel was very good, but so emotionally exhausting that watching it once is enough. Like Pan’s Labrynth or Trainspotting.

  6. Great review! This film stayed with me for a few weeks. It’s a fascinating look at raising a troubled child. Gripping and just overall very well done.

    I watched it during a week-long movie binge between Christmas and New Year’s. Needless to say, it kind of put a damper on my holidays. I also watched Love Actually and Take This Waltz during that time. If you haven’t seen Take This Waltz, I highly recommend it. Michelle Williams at her finest.

    • Yeah, no kidding.

      Although, I think it’s a scarier thought that even the best raised kids could do something dumb and violent… Here, the mother is clearly culpable to an extent, and the kid was obviously a monster from an early age. He made Damien look like a well behaved little boy for godssakes.

  7. Good movie. I found the pace to be a little off but for the most part it was very well delivered. The performances from Swinton and Mller were excellent as well but Reilly didn’t really fit for me.

    • Uhhhh… I think Reilly has a built in cluelessness. LOL. Dont get me wrong, he’s a super sharp guy, obviously, but he does “Not so bright” very well. It was easy to believe he could overlook whats right in front of his nose, there…

  8. Didn’t catch this one, but I’m curious how John C Reilly did in the father role. I’m always impressed how well he does in more serious roles. I love him in comedies so much, it’s weird to see him in different genres.

    • He was alright, Gene. Not the world’s largest role, but he had his share of screentime. He wasn’t asked to do anything really dramatic or anything, you know? So, he played it straight, and his innate likeability and the impression that he can give off that he’s a little clueless carried the day. 😀

      I love his comedic roles too. He’s one of the funniest people around if you ask me.

      SHAKE AND BAKE!!! 😀

  9. I saw this one with “Newtown” ringing in my ears. I liked it well enough but a couple things bugged me. The over use of flash backs, quite annoying, and blaming the mother for all of it. Even children totally deprived of a mother don’t turn out this way. He was a BAD SEED from the get-go. I know this is from a novel but what’s with the weapon choice? Are guns too controversial? This film had to disturb anyone thinking of having a family!

    • Yeah, the subject was definitely controversial, no doubt.

      Not sure if they’re saying something about guns or not. Perhaps its an illustration that crimes like that could be committed with other types of weapons, as well? Or that banning large ammo clips and such would limit the scope? Not sure on that choice.

      Aside from that, I guess that’s part of the debate, isn’t it? Was he a bad seed? Or did her failures as a mother make him that way. Gotta be a little of both…

  10. I really didn’t like this movie at all when I watched it, but reading others’ interpretations that pretty much paint the movie as a vast dark comedy that essentially all just takes place and is over-exaggerated in Tilda Swinton’s head did make me appreciate it just a little bit more. Still, not my cup of tea, I found the movie entirely unappealing. Nice read, though.

    • Oh, I cant see it as a dark comedy Chris. Really? I cant think of anything to laugh about, even in a dark comedy sort of way.

      I dont think the “it was all in her head” interpretation would hold water, either.

      NOTE: I realize you’re saying you saw those elsewhere, they’re not yours, but, I can’t get behind either angle buddy 😦

      • I wouldn’t call it a dark comedy so much in it being a laugh out loud affair or anything, so much as I would in just how ridiculous the entire thing is, almost humorously so in hindsight. Pretty much the thing that got me all throughout was just how over-the-top and unnatural everybody was acting in that movie, and especially how it didn’t feel realistic in the slightest the way people acted towards Tilda Swinton.

        Honestly, there’s no reason at all for the entire world to be so against her like that. She didn’t actually do anything to deserve such a reaction from anyone. And so, when looking at it from the perspective of the whole movie being in her head, looking back at her life from the skewed perspective that the whole world’s against her, that’s the only time that anything even begins to make a lick of sense.

        We see people acting so hateful towards her because that’s how she views herself. She blames herself for everything that’s happened, and as we’re going back in the movie and reliving her past, we’re viewing it purely from her skewed perspective. It also explains how, for instance, her husband can be THAT oblivious. It’s because while Kevin might have grown up to be a legitimately troubled child, he’s not actually the devil incarnate from birth, as the movie would like us to believe. Therefore, the reason her husband doesn’t see what she’s seeing is because it really isn’t as bad as she’s making it out to be. That, and since the movie’s, again, from her skewed perspective, then it would also make sense that her husband’s obliviousness is just as exaggerated as everything else we’re seeing.

        I’m not saying that this is definitely the case, but it’s the one that makes the most sense to me, and it’s the only explanation for the events in the movie taking place as they did that I can accept without thinking of the movie as poorly written garbage. But hey, that’s just me. *shrug*

      • Hell of an argument, man.

        I wouldnt go as far as poorly written garbage if that take ISNT true, but I like that spin on it. Even though its entirely possible that people would be that cruel to her. I can imagine that.

        But between the clueless husband and the fact that the kid is practically Satan incarnate from day one, you’re within your rights to call it out on its realism. I do like the alternate theory of the movie, too. Nice…

  11. This film was very shocking when I first saw but I was so engrossed by the images that Lynne Ramsay was creating. Even in the way she moved back and forth from past to present with the script as well as the air of suspense that is created. I really hope I don’t wait another 9 years for a new Ramsay film though I would like to hear from her about what really happened with “Jane Got a Gun”.

    • Wikipedia just says she didnt show up for the first day of shooting. That IS pretty strange, Nin.

      She was really very good here. She kept my interest visually the entire film, and there’s really nothing inherently visual about the story… it was very skillful of her, definitely 😉

  12. Good post! I agree with your review, and it certainly was a worthwhile recommendation from Kevin. If you get a chance, I highly recommend reading the novel written by Lionel Shriver. It was a real page turner that I had difficulty putting down.

    • I’m sure it’s good, and thanks for the recommendation, but… truth be told, I dont have a lot of time for reading. Not a big “reader” per se. LOL 😉

      Got too many movies to watch Robbin!! 😀

      Thanks for the kind words on the review though!

      • It’s not a very high profile picture, which can hurt. Perhaps the studio didnt push very hard on her behalf.

        Personally, I wasn’t as “wowed” as everyone else has been. She did a very good job, but I wouldn’t have given her a nomination vote, myself, either. She just kind of… spaced out for 90% of the movie. I understand that that’s what the part called for, but to me it wasn’t all that overwhelmingly impressive in terms of acting. 😦

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