They say there's no greater grief than that of a mother who loses her child, but what about that of a mother who is hated by her child? In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay uses bold cinematic strokes to immerse us in the guilt, anguish, and confusion of a woman whose son holds an inexplicable personal vendetta against her, leading up to an atrocity that shatters more than just her life.
We see Eva as young woman meeting her future husband Franklin (John C. Reilly), with whom she will birth a son; Kevin (played with creepy conviction by Jasper Newell and later Ezra Miller), a troubled child in whom Eva detects intense hostility, but one that Kevin appears to shrewdly hide from his father. As the backstory moves forward towards the film's central event, the memories become more lucid, and we begin to see the pieces falling into place.
Lynne Ramsay directs the hell out of this thing, and what she's ended up with is a disturbing work of art that gets under your skin and stays there against your will. Her evocation of Eva's frazzled memory is a stellar editing showcase that makes use of an ingenious sound mix, one which will surely be the film's most under-appreciated aspect. DP Seamus McGarvey captures Eva's adhesive guilt through dozens of arresting images symbolic of bloodstained hands. Lady MacBeth herself wouldn't have had such a hard time absolving herself of the death that stalks Eva's mind.
With such stylistic intensity, you might think that a performance as quietly controlled as Tilda Swinton's would become smothered. On the contrary, she owns every moment with her subtle command of understated but deep-running emotion, continuing her reign as one of the world's foremost acting talents. Oscar attention is deserved, nay, required for a performance of this caliber. She's earned her fair share of attention from the precursor circuit so far, with BFCA, SAG, and Golden Globe nominations to boost her campaign. Here's hoping AMPAS keeps the ball rolling.
**** out of ****