Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
There is no point. That's the point.
Where did Eva go wrong? That question may never be able to be fully answered or understood, because in order to fully comprehend what happened with Kevin, we would need to delve deeper into Eva's own clearly troubled past, with which we are never graced a glimpse of and never really need one. This is, after all, a story of her offspring; or more appropriately, her relationship with him and how it shaped him into the teenager he becomes. Lynne Ramsay's brilliant narrative structure constantly shifts the viewer back and forth between several different years in Kevin's life- first as a baby and toddler, then as a young child (still, curiously, donning a diaper), then finally as a teenager. By the time we reach that moment, he has become a mirror of his mother, a demonic spawn of the mentally detached and somewhat inexplicably abusive matriarch whom he has manipulated over the years. Their relationship is never one of love, but of service. Kevin makes demands, and she obeys. Even the father (played perfectly by John C. Reilly) succumbs to his son's wishes and whims, never really muting the usurpation of authority that Kevin so clearly undertakes.
Ramsay repeatedly uses paint and other brighter colors as a symbolism for Eva's futile attempts to cover her past. The opening shot of the film displays Eva getting nearly drowned, lost in her own oblivious bliss, in a sea of blood-red tomato paste. She appears happy, but dazed. Is this before or after her marriage and children came along? We never know, but we never really need to know that to begin with. It's an early display of foreshadowing and a brief glimpse into the protagonist's psychosis, showcasing her almost complete disconnection from the reality around her. Later on, her house is covered with splotches of red paint. It's a homely little place, where she escapes her past and is trying to live life anew. But why is everyone so hostile towards her? Why are people coating her house in red paint? Why do seemingly random passers-by appear to know who she is and greet her with such malevolence?
I don't watch movies to be entertained. I watch them to nurture my lifelong love for the art, for its unique narrative structures, its engrossing characters and spellbinding stories. I don't adore Lynne Ramsay's masterpiece We Need to Talk About Kevin because it's a fun film to watch. It's substantially dark and brooding, boiling with psychological tension as its two lead characters constantly clash and harmonize. The narrative structure utilized herein keeps the viewer on edge, constantly curious as to what the huge event is that we keep seeing brief glimpses of but are never allowed a full look into at first. Shifting us back and forth between different parts of Eva and Kevin's lives offers a more nuanced delve into the psychology and mannerisms that these two exhibit, making that final reveal that more potent- and ultimately horrifying.
This film would not have worked in a chronological report. To pick every chapter apart and place it in the correct order would be to destroy the very nature of the film's themes. Eva's thoughts and emotions are scattered, disconnected. She doesn't think of things in a single order, but rather thinks back to different moments in her life without any apparent rhyme or reason. Naturally, the order chosen would have to build some kind of suspense as to what will happen, and Ramsey does that to absolute perfection. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterpiece of narrative and structural beauty. It's a conundrum of a title since the parents never seem to really talk all that much about Kevin. There are no parent-teacher meetings, no scholastic experiences to show from Kevin's perspective. It's all shown from Eva's viewpoint as a masterful portrayal of one mother's fractured state of mind and its devastating effect on the people closest to her.