There Is No Point. That's The Point: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Anxiety manifests itself in some unusual ways when one considers films.  In some cases it can be quite overdone and seem ridiculous, as is the case with Requiem for a Dream, in other instances it can be minimalist and almost become a character within the film, as occurs in The Following and on other occasions it can so perfectly serve the plot that it makes the film a class, check out many a Hitchcock film for an example of this.  However, in Lynne Ramsay's We Need To Talk About Kevin, anxiety envelopes the film in such a manner that one becomes almost nauseous, and at the very least exhausted, after watching the film.  Of course, it could sound as though I am reflecting negatively on the film for this, yet that is not the case.  A challenging and draining movie is to be respected, similar to the works of Von Trier or Passolini, We Need To Talk About Kevin is beautiful in its abjectness and exists as either the most unassuming horror film of all time or the darkest comedy ever created.  Needless to say, it is clear why this film fell to the wayside last year, considering that it deals with incredibly provocative  issues and is unapologetic and nonredemptive in the manner it portrays them, particularly the relationship between a mother and son that is troubled, literally from conception.  A brilliant set of performances from Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller, along with some grating and confrontation imagery amounts to what is probably the greatest pro-choice film ever composed.  The concept of loathing burns of the screen as viewers consume, at times involuntarily, the world falling apart before their eyes.

It is clear that We Need To Talk About Kevin begins in media res, however, the events happening and those that have already occurred are less clearly defined.  We can tell that a woman named Eva (Tilda Swinton) is existing in pill-induced, alcohol consuming post-marriage life, as a result of what appears to be her son Kevin's (Ezra Miller) act, which appears to have been some sort of high school shooting.  Taking this moment in her distraught life, where she has now taken up employment at a travel agency, is juxtaposed quite jarringly with her past, one in which she was married to Franklin (John C. Reilly) after the birth of Kevin.  It is clear from the onset that things will be troublesome between Eva and Kevin, as even during his toddler years Kevin acts out against Eva, specifically harming her body and desires when nobody is around, only to act completely innocent when Franklin is around.  As Kevin grows older, his and Eva's relationship splinters more and more, eventually to the point where, in what might be jealously, Kevin leaves a cleaning chemical out to cause his younger sister to burn her eye.  Eva, despite her disdain, attempts to formulate some degree of a relationship with Kevin who continually belittles her every instance in which she may find success.  After all but giving up, Eva makes one last suggestion about going on a trip, which Kevin dances around committing to, only to go about killing the next day.  Throughout the film Eva constantly meets with Kevin in a juvenile prison where he demeans and dismisses her, up until the films closing scene in which Eva visits Kevin prior to his transfer to an adult prison and it is at this moment that Kevin admits for the first time to being lost, which results in a hug of comfort from Eva, perhaps the first genuine moment of bonding between the two throughout the whole film's narrative.

I only half-heartedly meant the bit about it being a wholly pro-choice movie, an analysis of that would be foolish and ungrounded.  Instead, I would like to consider this film as a perfect example of how one should depict and philosophically approach violence and its acts in film.  At no point does this film glorify or justify Kevin's actions, yet at the same time it does not condemn them.  It clearly draws a line of points which could elucidate particularly why Kevin acts out, yet it also helps to explain Eva's innocence in the situation, a claim that parents victims seem to disagree with adamantly, as happens up her being hit randomly by a woman in the street.  In fact, one could make the argument that Ramsay's film draws greater concern to the family structure of contemporary America as a place of latent violence.  The silences and back room dealings that happen within even the seemingly happiest and well-to-do families only lays in wait for something tragic.  Life, according to the world of We Need To Talk About Kevin, is usually shitty and there is no explanation as to why, yet it is pointless to dwell on the past no matter how dismal the present may be, simply put, there is no going back to a time before.  As Eva's constant scrubbing of red off her porch suggests, some stains cannot be removed, as such, you must accept getting use to their presence.

Key Scene: Tilda, Shopping Cart, Christmas Music, Eggs.

This is with little doubt one of the hidden gems of 2011, along side House of Pleasures and Take Shelter, it is deserved of acknowledgement when one reconsiders the best films of last year.  Rent it and see what I mean.

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