Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Director Lynne Ramsay presents a bold depiction about the difficulty of parenthood and the warning signs of evil.
'I want to know why? ... I used to think I knew. Now I'm not so sure.'
Fresh after watching this I feel numb trying to wrap my mind around how brilliantly painful We Need to Talk About Kevin is. At first I wondered how could I possibly rate something this chilling, but then when stepping back and realizing, while truths can be found within this story. But the bottom line is that it's just an amazing but difficult film.
The first part of the movie is shown as this chaotic sequence of timeline jumping, that just comes off as artsy at first. But then you come to appreciate it so much more by the end, as this mother looks back her life in a glance. The entire cast delivers stunning performances especially Tilda Swinton as the mother, and Ezra Miller as Kevin. And it is eerie to think about how similar these two characters are, but that Kevin for some reason has always had this complete lack of empathy and cruelty about him. And the whole time we see the mother struggle with how manipulative he is when interacting with his father.
Casting John C. Reilly as the father seemed so odd at first, but it works so well within the context of the story. He plays the perfect 'always look on the bright side' kind of person. Which unfortunately means he ends up taking Kevin's side, whenever his wife is trying to point out that something is seriously wrong with their son.
Having three kids of my own, I have to constantly remind myself not to overreact when they are being bad. So I could totally understand the anger she felt when Kevin sprays paint all over her office walls, and when he deliberately poops himself again right after being changed. That was such an interesting touch to see the young Kevin at such an advanced age, continuing to wear diapers. And you know it is just because he is trying to agitate his mother. The actor that played the young Kevin, Jasper Newell did an amazing job at portraying such a malicious child, which seamlessly blended into Ezra Miller's performance.
You know the whole time things are going to get bad ... but when??? And Ramsay so masterfully and subtly peels back the layers on Kevin, giving him the benefit of the doubt, until it is too late.
My three kids are boys, but I wished so much that one of them would have been a girl. So it broke my heart to feel the dread that Kevin could do something to hurt his sweet little sister at any moment. Then Kevin starts showing the trouble signs as his mistreatment of his sister increases. Which starts with him killing her pet, then causing her to lose an eye, and then eventually killing her in addition to his father and countless others at his school. You see him order all these bicycle locks, and like his parents you are guessing that he is up to something. But then you could have never imaged how awful the truth would be.
(Wow that masturbating scene was eerie). The whole time his mother is looking for that clue to prove that Kevin is truly disturbed, but instead his room is just this blank slate. Then when she finally tries to relate with him by saying a nasty comment about someone, he has the nerve to turn it back on her, and says that is where he must get his attitude from. Then by leaving her alive, is basically his final act of cruelty against her, as we see how miserable she is in the aftermath of the tragedy.
This is easily my favorite film from Director Lynne Ramsay. I appreciated how she applied just enough of that disorienting editing style to the narrative, but then really focuses on the strong performances, and slowly building tension and dread around Kevin. While this is not an easy film experience, it is a chillingly emotional one that I would urge everyone to check out.
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