Review: 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' is a little too unsettling

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a psychological horror movie clumsily posing as social commentary, a contemporary take on The Bad Seed with a Columbine twist. It's the story of a child destined from birth to be a sociopath, and a mother's guilt for bringing him into the world. A depressing premise, presented with an abundance of hysteria and symbolic reds.

Director and co-writer Lynne Ramsay tells the story from the mother's emotionally deteriorating perspective, in flashbacks revealing an unexpected pregnancy, a one-sided marriage and a growing fear that her son wants to kill her. Oscar winner Tilda Swinton plays Eva as wary and wounded, with an otherworldly vibe, as if she has already checked out of reality.

Eva is married to Franklin (a miscast John C. Reilly) whose optimistic disposition gets on her nerves. He doesn't see the urgency of dealing with the increasingly erratic behavior of their son Kevin (Jasper Newell as a tyke; Ezra Miller as a teenager). Kevin talks back to her, even draws blood on one occasion, playing the sweet-kid role when Dad comes home, to make him believe Mom is going crazy.

But Eva loves Kevin, or thinks she should, creating the kind of false tolerance that can't last. In return Kevin gives her nothing but grief, a parent's second-worst nightmare; not a victim of violence but the cause of it. Whether intended or not, Ramsay has created an unsettling argument in favor of birth control and abortion.

Ramsay clues viewers early that Kevin will do something atrocious, with neighbors vandalizing Eva's home with blood-red paint, and a former friend wordlessly slapping her in the face. The sins of the son are visited upon the mother tenfold, with Ramsay eager to show each bit of retribution. We Need to Talk About Kevin becomes a sort of snuff film, teasing viewers with lurid possibilities before reaching a payoff hard to believe.

Next to Swinton's excellent portrayal of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, the movie belongs to the two Kevins, young actors with matching arched eyebrows and sullen expressions. At times Ramsay's movie feels like another sequel to The Omen, the children are so creepy and obviously evil. We Need to Talk About Kevin isn't subtle about anything, and viewers are excused for laughing when we're supposed to gasp.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a psychological horror movie clumsily posing as social commentary, a contemporary take on The Bad Seed with a Columbine twist. It's the story of a child destined from birth to be a sociopath, and a mother's guilt for bringing him into the world. A depressing premise, presented with an abundance of hysteria and symbolic reds.

Director and co-writer Lynne Ramsay tells the story from the mother's emotionally deteriorating perspective, in flashbacks revealing an unexpected pregnancy, a one-sided marriage and a growing fear that her son wants to kill her. Oscar winner Tilda Swinton plays Eva as wary and wounded, with an otherworldly vibe, as if she has already checked out of reality.

Eva is married to Franklin (a miscast John C. Reilly) whose optimistic disposition gets on her nerves. He doesn't see the urgency of dealing with the increasingly erratic behavior of their son Kevin (Jasper Newell as a tyke; Ezra Miller as a teenager). Kevin talks back to her, even draws blood on one occasion, playing the sweet-kid role when Dad comes home, to make him believe Mom is going crazy.

But Eva loves Kevin, or thinks she should, creating the kind of false tolerance that can't last. In return Kevin gives her nothing but grief, a parent's second-worst nightmare; not a victim of violence but the cause of it. Whether intended or not, Ramsay has created an unsettling argument in favor of birth control and abortion.

Ramsay clues viewers early that Kevin will do something atrocious, with neighbors vandalizing Eva's home with blood-red paint, and a former friend wordlessly slapping her in the face. The sins of the son are visited upon the mother tenfold, with Ramsay eager to show each bit of retribution. We Need to Talk About Kevin becomes a sort of snuff film, teasing viewers with lurid possibilities before reaching a payoff hard to believe.

Next to Swinton's excellent portrayal of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, the movie belongs to the two Kevins, young actors with matching arched eyebrows and sullen expressions. At times Ramsay's movie feels like another sequel to The Omen, the children are so creepy and obviously evil. We Need to Talk About Kevin isn't subtle about anything, and viewers are excused for laughing when we're supposed to gasp.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

.review

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller,

Jasper Newell

Screenplay: Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver

Rating: R; violence,

profanity, sexual content

Run time: 112 min.

Now showing exclusively at Tampa Theatre.

Grade: B-

Review: 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' is a little too unsettling 03/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 10:14pm]

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