Mark Cunliffe 🇵🇸’s review published on Letterboxd:
A truly stunning and impressive adaptation by Lynne Ramsey of Lionel Shriver's seemingly unfilmable novel about a high school massacre orchestrated by an evil teenage boy.
What made him do this atrocious act?
The film explores Kevin's fate through the eyes of the relationship between him and his mother Eva, played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton - a true masterclass in performing. The jigsaw like pieces of the tale are scattered, not necessarily in the right order, to dazzling effect with a wonderful vivid red being deployed throughout as the tone of the movie becomes increasingly close to that of The Omen or Rosemary's Baby.
But why did he do it?
Did Eva go wrong? She was suffering from extreme post natal depression and took to telling the infant Kevin outright that he had ruined both her life and her marriage. She even lashed out and caused him to break his arm in one scene. Or was it the choice of bedtime stories? Did Robin Hood encourage his unfortunate interest in archery? Did he just soak up her miasma of resentment and disenchantment with being a mother?
I'm not entirely sure. Now, that could be seen as a fault in the film and indeed in the full gamut of 5 stars to 1 stars reviews it is often brought up in the latter as a reason why the film didn't work for some people - that an accusation of arthouse pretentiousness that frankly bores me, is beyond consideration and is something of a masochistic insult towards the intelligence of some critics - but to be honest though, I don't really see a lack of substantial reasoning as to why Kevin behaves as he does as a fault myself. I've actually worked with high risk offenders myself in the past and it's actually very rare that one could single out one contributing factor for their crime.
What's most interesting is the outcome of Kevin's massacre. Being underage he cannot face trial as an adult, so the film asks who will be blamed by society and naturally that misfortune falls to Eva, Kevin's mother. Here in the UK its an especially startling thing to witness as we are extremely lucky to not experience too many cases of 'Going Postal' to compare and contrast the fiction with.
Perhaps the blame Eva receives is not really about Kevin's actions, perhaps it is karma for her unwillingness to accept motherhood in the first place - the extreme result of the destruction of the individual motherhood ultimately brings about.
It's a technically brilliant film; harrowing, shocking and tragic but with the occasional flash of true jet black mordant wit.
But did I enjoy it? Not really, it's the kind of subject one cannot truly be said to 'enjoy'. That's why I can only give it 3 and a half stars as opposed to a 4 or 5 rating that - technically alone - the film deserves.
Before this, Ramsey hadn't made a film in 9 years. I hope we don't have to wait another 9 years for her next project.