DVD Review: ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’

Arguably the best film of 2011 – yet heinously overlooked at both the Baftas and Academy Awards – We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay’s groundbreaking adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel,  finally makes its way onto DVD and Blu-ray this week. Featuring a startling central performance from the birdlike Tilda Swinton, plus fine support from John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller, the emotional and physical impact of Ramsay’s latest truly needs to be seen (and actually felt) to be believed. Ramsay’s auteuristic vision of We Need to Talk About Kevin flits back and forth in time with near-effortless ease and assurance.

We follow the story of Eva (Swinton), a one-time 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 fractious 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 Kevin commits an abhorrent crime against his own community. It’s easy to see why Ramsay’s dark psychological drama failed to make much an impact in this year’s recent Academy Award nominations.

Despite its American-centric setting and subject matter, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a true arthouse piece, with Ramsay comfortable to let her roving camera do the talking rather than endless reams of redundant, contrived dialogue (enter the shambolic Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Whatsmore, the film’s unflinching portrayal of Kevin, a sinister, seemingly amoral public hate figure, was hardly going to capture the imagination of a majority of the Academy voters, a large proportion of which are simply out-of-touch with issues intrinsic within modern American society.

Focus should next shift to Glasgow-born filmmaker Ramsay’s yet-untitled follow-up feature, a sci-fi film ‘inspired’ by Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. The maniacal Captain Ahab looks set to star in one form or another, and fingers will be well and truly crossed throughout the UK film industry that this incredible British talent – once attached to The Lovely Bones adaptation following her stunning debut feature Ratcatcher (1999) – can once again conjure up an iconic cinematic monster.

Daniel Green

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