We Need to Talk About Kevin

Movies have always been hyped up to be more of an entertainment spectacle than a form of art. The value and power in film gets buried under special effects and advertising, but the magic of the movies can never be lost in indie films. A quiet film, with a simple plot that is made to be electric through visual and cinematic devices, that is where the “movie magic” is hidden. Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin is an indie drama starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller, but even more simply it is a story about a difficult, troubled kid who’s parents didn’t know how to help him. The movie, running at an hour and fifty minutes, accounts his life growing up, causing trouble, and bumping heads with his mother. By all accounts, this movie should have been torturously boring, but rather it is one of the most enthralling pieces I’ve seen in a long time. Swinton plays a mentally disconnected mother who failed to bond with the child whom she never wanted, spiraling as her family’s fate unravels. The non-linear plot structure puts you inside the mind of Swinton as Kevin’s lost mother, weaving you in and out of 16 years of a life through memories and flashbacks. Subtly depraved pieces of plot come together in a tragic, choreographed, and directed climax, which is foreshadowed from the first three seconds of the film and throughout with sounds and visual symbols. The editing and cinematography makes this indie great, but its is Miller’s performance that makes it memorable. His raw portrayal of a cunning and manipulative young sociopath with the ability to move swiftly between fits of rage and moments of peace, provide this quiet, subtle film with an sharp edge and unexpected thrill. His fluent talent molds an unexpected character, leaving viewers sharing in his mother’s shock and residual guilt for not predicting his actions. When the garbage disposal sputters after the daughter’s pet hamster goes missing, one can taste the darkness. However, it isn’t until the climactic attack at the school that we realize how damaged this boy truly is. Kevin’s massacre spares Eva, his constant enemy, and the twisted motivation behind the slayings. He killed the people she loved with his childhood toy and weapon of choice, and left her to gaze at the monster she had created. In the final scenes when Eva asks her imprisoned son for a reason why, he answers, “I used to think I knew. Now I’m not so sure”. Ramsay’s work is a figurehead of what an indie film should be. Cutting edge and daring in silence; filmmaking that is beautiful in its darkest moments.

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