Thursday, 12 May 2011

Cannes Day 2: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Remember that line from Lady Macbeth? "Out, damn spot!"

Apparently so does Lynne Ramsey, director of We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Based on the book of the same name by U.K. author Lionel Shriver, the film has a top-form Tilda Swinton as Eva, the mother of a deranged little boy named Kevin, who in his teens commits a gruesome school-shooting.

Kevin alternates between two timelines: when Kevin is a teenager (and behind bars) and when Kevin is in the early stages of his life. In this sense, Kevin is actually fairly one-dimensional - he doesn't do much else other but pooh-pooh any maternal attempts from Eva, and feign excitement when he's with Dad (John C. Reilly) to further annoy Mom. They simply don't get along, but only because of Kevin's militant stubbornness and contempt for his mother. The film, then, is perhaps an account of what influences a person to run into a school and shoot their fellow classmates. Nature versus nurture comes to mind.

In addition to the back-and-forth between past and present, there are snippets of Eva running to the aftermath of the school shooting and the realization that it was perpetrated by her demon son Kevin. Needless to say, she's hated in her community (and the mothers of dead teens) in the present. In the past, she's a successful travel writer, trying her best to raise her son that doesn't love her. The son that she gave up her career for. 

The two Evas are both delivered masterfully by Swinton, and it's a powerful thing to watch an A-list actor do what they do best. In this sense, Kevin succeeds in many ways. Sadly, it's another thing to watch a well-known director treat her audience like children.

Ramsay has Eva channel Lady Macbeth in pretty much every scene. When she's not scrubbing red paint off the front of her house (a gift from some vengeful vandals), she's either drinking red wine (or revelling in it), wearing red clothes, playing with a red ball, etc. While I enjoy imagery in my films, it's a little frustrating to be beaten over the head with a theme, especially when it becomes blatantly obvious. We get it already.

Hey look! More red!
The acting is perfection from all the film's players. Even Kevin, who comes across as genuinely scary and truly demented. However, the film is too steeped in its colour palette for the imagery to compliment the magnificent performances, and the pacing slips between the "red" zone of tediousness and muted horror.

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