BFI London Film Festival 2011: ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’

Criminally overlooked at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay’s seminal psychological drama We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) – starring Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller and John C. Reilly – receives its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival tonight and stands as not only one of the truly outstanding films of the 2011 LFF programme, but also as a strong contender for film of the year.

Based on Lionel Shriver’s universally-acclaimed 2003 novel of the same name, Ramsay’s auteuristic vision of We Need to Talk About Kevin flits back and forth in time with near-effortless ease and assurance, as we follow the story of Eva (Swinton), a once adventurous free spirit who is forced to put her ambitions and career aside after giving birth to her son, Kevin (played by newcomer Miller during his teenage years).

The relationship between mother and son is difficult from the outset – Kevin cries all day and all night as a baby, scowls at his mother and struggles with toilet-training as a young child, and becomes a destructive force in his teens. Her laid-back husband Franklin (Reilly) seems oblivious to Kevin’s confrontational nature until – a few days before his 16th birthday – Kevin commits an abhorrent crime against his own community.

Few films will resonate with you days (and weeks) after viewing in the same way as We Need to Talk About Kevin. Ramsay’s supreme adaptation does everything possible to retain the enormous psychological power of Shriver’s novel, whilst opting for a deeply cinematic, expressionist approach to narrative storytelling (the use of colour is outstanding throughout). The result is one of the most technically-impressive, emotionally-draining films of recent times, a repost to every dissenting voice convinced that no film adaptation can ever be as good as its source material.

As Eva, the mother of a seemingly cold-blooded killer, Swinton provides the emotional pendulum at the core of We Need to Talk About Kevin, seemingly in constant conflict with her own sense of deep-seeded guilt for her son’s actions. This really is an Oscar-worthy film in every sense, and serves as a timely reminder to all of cinema’s immense, emotional power.

For more BFI London Film Festival 2011 coverage, simply follow this link.

Daniel Green