“WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN” (Tilda Swinton & John C. Reilly)
I can’t decide if this is a poignant, impressive film, or just an exploitive piece of junk. Seriously, I can’t make up my mind – the more I lean toward the junk side, the more disturbing images flash in my mind from the film and I then start leaning toward the impressive angle simply because I can’t get the darn thing out of my head.
“We Need To Talk About Kevin” concerns a mother (Eva K., played by Tilda Swinton)
a father (John C. Reilly as Eva’s husband, Franklin) & their first born – the title character, Kevin. Later, when Kevin is around 9 or 10, his little sister, Celia enters the dysfunctional ‘K’ family.
The film opens with Eva on vacation in India, presumably prior to Kevin’s birth, since she appears to be carefree and happy. The reason for the sight of a large group of people playfully smearing each other with what appears to be salsa is never explained – but by film’s end, I assumed the movie opens with this as being ‘Eva’s last pleasant memory’.
In the next few scenes, the mood becomes darker and Eva doesn’t look so playful anymore. A glass door that opens out onto a patio is shown in darkness with the light coming from outside shining on the white curtains that billow as a breeze blows them inward. And then Eva awakes with a start. She is pale and looks hollow – nothing at all like the woman enjoying her splooshing experience in India.
Eva opens the door to her small house to find it splattered with red paint - her car has had a bucket of red paint splashed across the front of it as well. She waves at a neighbor across the street as he mows his lawn. The man reluctantly waves back. Eva acts as though nothing out of the ordinary has taken place. She gets into her car and goes to a job interview. Eva is shocked and excited when she lands a position for a travel agency. She rewards herself by going out to lunch where she is approached by a woman she obviously knows, but doesn’t want to encounter. The woman calls her a horrible person and slaps her hard in the face. A man comes to Eva’s aid, offering to call the police as a witness to the assault but Eva begs him not to do anything. Eva rushes away wiping the blood from her face. Her joyful moment was fleeting indeed.
A blur of scenes ensue; it’s dark out but there are several people gathered outside a school gymnasium. Police and firemen keep the crowd at bay as they demand to know what has happened. The woman that attacked Eva is seen among the crowd. Eva appears and tells the police, "My son goes to this school." She sees what is on the door to the gym and freezes.
“We Need To Talk About Kevin” does something that I normally hate – It bounces around in time without any reference as to what moment in time we are actually watching. I’m sure it would be easier to decipher the timeline should I watch this film again, but I’d have to be in the right frame of mind to want to take on this disturbing heavy duty drama one more time. The reason for the bouncing around in time becomes apparent about a quarter of the way thru the story – What we’re seeing are Eva’s drug induced/alcohol impaired memories of what led her son to do the horrific thing he does. Eva K. raised a monster. What I believe this movie tries to tell us is that – in Kevin’s particular case – he was BORN a demon, it wasn’t his upbringing. He wasn’t mistreated, except when his mother accidentally breaks his arm by shoving him during one of his extreme brat-attacks. This scene is introduced by Kevin, in prison garb, telling his mother, “It was the only time I got an honest reaction from you.”
Eventually the film starts to make sense, even though it continues to bounce around in time. We discover that when they’re living in the big fancy mansion that Franklin purchased we are in 'pre-whatever it is that Kevin did' era and if they’re in the dilapidated shack with the red paint splattered across it, we are in 'post-whatever it is that Kevin did' time.
Eva and Franklin are a loving couple until the baby comes along.
The problem is Mom can’t stand being around her baby because the child is constantly screaming. She stands on a street corner next to a group of construction workers using jackhammers just so they’ll drown out the sound of Kevin’s bawling.
Franklin comes home and heads for the basinet. “Oh please don’t wake him, “ Eva begs, “I just got him down for his nap.”
Too late – Dad is already cradling the baby in his arms. Kevin doesn’t make a sound, except for the occasional ‘coo’. “See?” Franklin tells his wife, “You just have to rock him & he’s fine.”
As Eva watches television she is jolted by the image of her son glaring into the camera as he says, “You think you’d be watching me on TV right now if all I did was get an ‘A’ in geometry?”
Eva searches her memory again, wondering where she went wrong.
Kevin is now a young tyke about 5 or 6, but still wearing diapers. He is joyless and morose until Daddy comes home and he gives him a hug and a kiss.
As Mom cooks dinner Kevin and Dad play a video game and all Eva can hear is Kevin repeatedly yelling, “Die! Die! Die! Die! Die! Die! Die Die!” as he presses the buttons on his game player.
There was one moment where mom trumped dad in Kevin’s eyes; She decided to try reading to him at bedtime and selected ‘The Tales Of Robin Hood’. Dad peaks into the bedroom and Kevin tells him to “Go away.” He then crawls into his mother’s lap & says “Keep reading, mommy.”
Eva looks up at Franklin and beams a bright smile as she telepathically tells her husband, “This is the break thru we’ve been waiting for!”
Not to be outdone, dad buys Kevin a plastic bow & arrow set for his birthday. As they play with the plastic suction-cup tipped arrows in the back yard Kevin turns to see his mother peering at them from the kitchen window. He picks up an arrow and shoots it in her direction – the suction cup tip sticking to the glass beside her face.
When Kevin was 9 or 10, his baby sister Celia is created.
With Kevin in his teens & Celia a small tyke, it is obvious that Celia loves her big brother no matter how big of a jerk he is toward her. She brings him a Mountain Dew when he comes home from school & he says, “No, you retard, I want a Root Beer!”
His mother reprimands him for talking to his sister that way, but Kevin just grabs the can of soda from his sister and stalks off.
He belittles the little girl every chance he gets and yet she just keeps on smiling adorably at him. Kevin does something horrible to Celia’s pet and then to Celia herself – though I have to chastise the film for not explaining exactly why Celia is suddenly wearing an eye patch after being left alone with her big brother. Which also begs the question, why would Eva leave her trusting, loving little girl alone with what she knows is a sadistic creep?
It isn’t difficult to figure out why Kevin is in prison, and I won’t reveal what happens at the end, but it sickened me. If the film had ended the way I wanted it to, I’d be hailing it as a masterpiece, but it has one of the worse final scenes of all time and because of that, I’m not sure how much I should regale this film. IT IS MEMORABLE, I’ll grant you that.