We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

A gripping psychological drama that delves deep into the complexities of human nature, parenthood, and the haunting effects of a trauma


7/15/20234 min read

Ezra Miller as Kevin in 'We need to talk about Kevin'
Ezra Miller as Kevin in 'We need to talk about Kevin'

English, 111 minutes ,2011

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Awards: Nominated for Palme d’Or, Cannes Film Festival, 2011; Nominated for Best actress, Best director and Outstanding British Film at BAFTA Awards, 2012; Nominated for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Screenplay at AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) Awards, 2012; Won Best actress (Tilda Swinton) award at numerous film festivals and annual awards including Asian Film Critics Association, European Film Award and San Francisco Film critics Circle, etc.

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" tackles themes of identity crisis, guilt and social pressures. The film moves more in ‘shots’ rather than in ‘scenes’. A viewer has to connect and disconnect and go with director who constantly switches from flashbacks to present and vice versa.

We, the viewers, are slowly introduced to Kevin (Ezra Miller as adult Kevin) as he grows up. He has problems right from his growing years where he starts talking very late, poops in his pants, is attracted to violence and has no social connections whatsoever. His mother Eva (Tilda Swinton) struggles to understand her child and is concerned and irritated by his abnormal behavior who seem to hate Eva. Kevin’s father, Franklin (John C. Reilly) is somewhat less concerned as the child behaves himself around him and thinks he is Ok.

As he grows and becomes teenager, he is a bit relatable but still the mother understands the abnormalities and brazenness of Kevin. He gets liking to bow and arrow during younger years and grows with it. A big professional Bow and arrow set is gifted by his father as a Christmas present to Kevin.

In one of the sequences, Eva discovers that Kevin has killed a guinea pig which was close to Kevin’s younger sister, Celia and he has stuffed its remains in the drainage pipe. While taking it out Celia’s eye is damaged and she is forced to wear a glass eye. The horror of Kevin’s behavior is seen by the Khatchadourian family up and close for the first time.

The final sequence which unveils in last 15 minutes or so actually reveals what Kevin has done at school and at home making Eva a lonely lady who has to live her life tolerating hatred and disdainful attitude of neighbors and the acquaintances.

Since the film rocks from past to present continuously, we are shown Eva coming to terms with the present situation slowly. She applies and gets a small job at a travel agency where owner doesn’t care much about what she has gone through. She is forced to clean her car which is all smeared in red paint by the miscreants in the neighborhood. Her house is spray painted red so she painstakingly removes all red paint by herself which is again shown in shots throughout the film. This process works as metaphor as Eva tries also to erase her past and the grief that lies within her. At the end, we see the house in nice white colour, conveying that she is almost successful in getting out of the tragedy that struck her. She is almost normal, in the last sequence, meeting Kevin in prison after two years.

The treatment is real classy where viewers are spared the horror and get to know of the tragedy through random shots which does connect eloquently. The skillful editing in this non-linear narrative, direction and the script shines through and so does the actress Tilda Swinton, who won lot of awards for her portrayal of Kevin’s mother, Eva. Ezra Miller's performance as Kevin is equally mesmerizing. He brings a chilling intensity to the character, portraying Kevin as manipulative, unsettling, and morally ambiguous.

The film, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is unsettling and haunting exploration of the human psyche. It dares to delve into the darkest corners of human nature, leaving viewers with a sense of unease long after the credits roll.

About The Director, Lynn Ramsey

Born in December, 1969 at Glasgow, UK, Lynn belonged to a working class family. After passing out of school she went to study art and photography at Edinburg Napier University. While in her school she watched Maya Deren’s film ‘Meshes of the afternoon’ which influenced her so much that she decided to make films as her career. She graduated in ‘Cinematography and Direction’ from National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, England. Her graduation short film was ‘Small Deaths’, which won ’Prix de Jury’, Cannes film Festival, 1996. Her later short films ‘Kill the day and ‘Gasman’ also won awards at other prominent film festivals.

Her first feature film, as a director and screenplay writer both, was ‘Ratcatcher’ which got screened at Cannes Film festival, 1999 and was opened at Edinburg International Film Festival same year. ‘Ratcatcher’ won several awards, majority among them were for ‘Best first feature’ film of a director.

Lynne’s second feature film ‘Morvern Callar’ was a psychological drama based on a novel of the same name by writer Alan Warner. She co-wrote the screenplay with Liana Dognini. Samantha Morton, who played lead female role won the best actress award at British Independent Film Awards, 2002. It was screened in the ‘Directors Fortnight’ section, Cannes Film Festival, 2002.

‘We need to talk about Kevin’, Lynne’s third feature is also a psychological drama like her earlier film ‘Morvern Callar’. This film too is based on a novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver. The film was premiered at Cannes Film festival, 2011 and received nomination for the grand prize. Tilda Swinton for her lead role won several awards as ‘Best Actress’ at various film festivals across the world. Among annual awards, she won that at Golden Golobe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Award and at BAFTA.

Lynne’s films, though based on novels, are actually her interpretation or her ‘take’ of that subject matter and hence she is involved in scriptwriting and has a hands-on approach right from the beginning. This was evident when she agreed to direct the film based on a script ‘Jane got a gun’ for which Natalie Portman and Jude law were already signed and didn’t turn up at the first day of shooting. Producers were furious but she opted out because she says she “gradually realized that producers weren’t thinking the way I was and wanted different ending”. Darius Khondji, the famous Iranian – French director of Photography regards her as “one of the greatest living film directors today”.