We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011)

(On Cable TV, February 2017) Some movies are unbearable because they a terrible. Others are unbearable because they’re arguably too good at what they do. We Need to Talk About Kevin falls squarely in the second category, as it explores the inner drama of a woman who has to live knowing that her son killed her husband and daughter, then went on a school massacre. She doesn’t even has the luxury of mourning, as the son is alive and in jail. Ostracized by her community, desperately alone, stuck in a miserable house after losing everything in civil suits, our heroine reflects on her life and how it led to such terrible events. Ping-ponging through twenty years of history, gradually revealing its disgusting secrets in a way that’s as depressing as it’s predictable, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a horror film disguised as heavy drama. Surprisingly enough, it works much better than expected: The editing between the various time periods is clear and the sheer competence of the execution manages to rehabilitate a core story that could have been seen as far too melodramatic. The sociopathy exhibited by Kevin is off-the-scale to a point where a less confident approach might have sent the entire film falling apart. But writer/director Lynne Ramsay keeps everything under control, and she can count on Tilda Swinton for a terrific performance in a difficult role. All of this makes We Need to Talk about Kevin remarkable to watch, but it also makes it the kind of film you never, ever want to see again. Sensible natures should be forewarned: This is a movie that works far too well at what it does.

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