We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Kevin is the new Damien.

Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a mother who puts her ambitions and career aside when she gives birth to Kevin. The relationship between mother and son is difficult from the very first years. But when Kevin is fifteen, he does something truly evil and unforgivable and Eva must grapple with her own feelings of grief and responsibility. Did she ever love her son? And how much of what Kevin did was her fault?

All mothers are expected to love their sons no matter who or what they are. Whether they are sociopaths, killers, murders, satanists, the son of Sam, etc. it doesn’t matter because the mommy should always be there for her son, but how far is too far?

Director Lynne Ramsay hasn’t had a film in over nine years and she shows no signs of rust at all with this flick because right from the beginning shot of Eva covered in tomato sauce, I was hooked for the whole next hour and 52 minutes. Ramsay approaches this film with a non-linear narrative that bounces between Eva’s current life living all by herself after something horrible happened to her, then goes back in time to the time when Eva first met her husband leading up to them having their son Kevin. This at first, seemed a little confusing but after awhile it started to grow on me and I guess it did on Ramsay too considering I could tell exactly what time period we were actually in.

There have been so many movies that all talk about the “evil child” (‘Orphan’, ‘The Omen’, ‘The Bad Seed’) but somehow Ramsay makes it all different with her use of style that just had me creeped out the whole time. There are these dark and light colors in this film that will pop-up and seem absolutely terrifying because it’s almost as if she makes it all jump out at the audience. There are also plenty of other sequences that this film had that freaked me out with many of Ramsay’s stylized scenes seeming as if we were going inside the mind of Eva’s head and seeing practically everything that she sees.

And let me just tell you, the things that she sees this little bastard Kevin do, is down-right disturbing. This kid tortures the hell out of her from deliberate things like not saying her name, crapping his pants, making fun of her when she talks, shutting down any time she tries to be sensitive, putting her husband against her, and so many more outrageous and truly shocking things. It’s terrible to sit back and just watch somebody get completely torn up by their own son because the mom always comes back for more love, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of anything that happened here at all. It’s painful to just watch everything happen, but I just did not want to stop watching and I didn’t even know what Eva could have done in any of these situations.

Ramsay makes the right decision in making this seem more like a dramatic horror flick that is set in reality and shows us something that could happen to any of us, without us ever being able to do anything about it. The shit Kevin does, says, and even contemplates, is something that will stick in my mind for awhile now but most of all is the fact that there are kids like there out this and it’s hard to ever ignore them and get them out of your mind. There are some discussions about the idea of nurture vs. nature and who is to blame for a kids evil-doings but in reality, these ideas sort of left my mind as soon as I started thinking about all of the “Kevins” that I may possibly know and just how truly scary they could be to the ones who love them the most.

My problems lies within the later parts of Eva’s life where I feel like we are watching here just try to get on with her life, which seemed realistic, however, there were times where I couldn’t quite believe it all. I don’t know want to give away the very very very bad thing that happens to Eva but she decides to keep on seeing Kevin, even though she has nothing to do with him anymore and doesn’t need him in her life at all. I understand the whole fact that a mother should always love her child, but there is to a certain extent to where I would drop that little shit-head off at the loony bin and run away as far away as I can. The fact that she still is there for moral support bothered me and kind of made me feel like there is only so much that one person could go through, but then again, maybe I’m just a vicious bastard who shouldn’t have kids.

Another problem I had with this film was the performance and character that John C. Reilly plays. Reilly plays Eva’s husband, Franklin, and the guy is never around. He does some job that we never find out exactly what it is and whenever he is around, he just hangs out with Kevin because as soon as he comes home, Kevin is all of a sudden all cute and cuddly. The reason I didn’t like Franklin all that much is because when Eva starts to tell him about the problems she is having with Kevin, he doesn’t really even do anything about it instead of just saying that he’s a kid. When the second child is born, Kevin practically throws water in the babies face, and Franklin just pulls him over and takes him somewhere, without any discipline whatsoever.

It’s also pretty obvious that Eva is very depressed, disturbed, and just filled with all of these negative feelings because of Kevin but Franklin never seems to address them or ask what’s wrong. Instead, he just humps her one night and gets her pregnant once again, as if that was going to solve any of the problems she was having before. Hey, the first kid is sociopath, let’s try to see if we can get another and really eff things up. Reilly really does try in this role but Franklin is barely ever in it and whenever he is, he just bothered me as a total dumb-ass of a dude and a husband. It’s a shame because it almost feels like this role could have been played by any actor, and it would not have made any type of difference.

A performance and character that isn’t as bad as Franklin is Tilda Swinton who plays Eva. Swinton is one of those actresses who is always strong in everything she does but sometimes never gets fully up there as a great actress. As Eva, Swinton portrays a lot of emotions because she goes through so many unthinkable things that are not just with Kev, but everybody else around her when the bad event occurs. You can tell this chick is really suffering and trying her hardest to be a good mommy and not ruin things with her son, but she just never can fully win over Kev and it’s really hard to watch mainly because Swinton plays Eva, as if she was a real chick. It’s really hard to empathize with her but her character is strong and goes through a lot of shit throughout the whole film, something that Swinton makes believable.

Ezra Miller is also a real “treat” here as Kevin because this kid is just downright evil. Miller is dark and disturbing as Kevin because everything he does, he never has any good intent for it and just by watching this kid with that little evil and creepy grin he has on his face the whole time, is just something that will stay in my mind for awhile. Miller is able to take what would ordinarily be a very cliched performance as “the evil kid” but his latter scenes with Swinton, where he proves to be nothing other than equal to her, are played out with a perfect tone and way of using his grimness but also smarty-smarts to his favor as well. Kevin is definitely not a name you want to name your next kid, boy or girl.

Consensus: Director Lynne Ramsay combines elements of horror and drama to show a disturbing tale, with perfect performances from Miller and Swinton, and also making it impossible for anybody to turn their eyes away from.

8.5/10=Full Price!!


  1. Great review of this one. I saw this a while ago and it’s a movie that really got under my skin and is one of my favorites this year. Great acting and it makes you think (like you say) about the real kids out there who are like this. You wonder if these type of kids ever could be helped/cured or should remain behind bars forever.

  2. I agree, it sticks in my mind, and was tough to look away. The build-up was very well done, luckily I didn’t read anything about story beforehand. Although I think the pay-off means its not a film I’d rewatch a lot. I think the film will do well at the awards ceremonies, even if the evilness may put off it becoming a big family night out.

    Spoiler warning:
    I liked how the film didn’t blame the mother, even though the community did. The film shows parents are sometimes not to blame. About the prison scene you mention. Maybe Eva goes back to the jail to see him, because she’s alone, and because hating doesn’t usually make you happy. Kevin ruined her life, and she doesn’t have to forgive him, just for me its better to hold your head up high, and face your problems, than hide from them. If he still hates her in jail, then at least she tried.

    from Chris

  3. I saw the movie recently and reviewed it for my blog, as well! It is disturbing and shocking and I thought it was a fantastic movie overall! Great review!

  4. I’ve been wanting to see this film for a while, but I every time I think about movies to watch it somehow sneaks out of my consciousness. You’re very thorough in your descriptions of the actors performances. Based on your write-up, I think I may have a similar problem with the Kevin character that you had with Franklin. It rubs me the wrong way when a character seems one-note. According to your review, there doesn’t seem to be anything sympathetic about Kevin. This might take away some of threat because, for me, in a dramatic thriller the threat needs to come from a “person” rather than a “monster.” Kevin seems to be just a monster, but a monster thrown into what is essentially a family drama sort of scenario. The thing that intrigues me is your vague mention of some of his ending scenes where he comes across as her “equal.” I wonder what exactly that means. Really, I should see this!

  5. I saw this movie yesterday (review pending) and was blown away. It was not completely perfect, but boy did it stay with me. I will have to add it to my best of 2011 list, and I just bought the book today, really interested to start reading it later. Great review as always.

  6. Watched it last night and now I really want to read the book as well. I think Kevin showed all those other creepy children that no supernatural power is needed for evil. Heard also, that Miller stopped talking to his mom the entire time they filmed it to get to the “mom hating” mood.
    On the Eva going to see him.. well, I think she was looking for answers maybe. Because she also asked in the end, why did he do it.. I think she needed to know on some level. Besides, she had nobody else…

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