Some films can have great performances, a gripping and well delivered story, all wrapped up in a perfect piece of direction, but still fail to hit the mark. We Need to Talk About Kevin had this feel about it. The performances were fantastic, the story was really interesting and maintained my interest from beginning to end and the way the film was shot made sense but I didn’t feel that impressed with it afterwards.
I haven’t read the book but know that the story is told through letters in the novel. This obviously wouldn’t be effective on-screen but I do question, slightly, the decision to shoot the film as series of disjointed flashbacks, with little to no real continuity. It didn’t really add to the effect of the story and I felt like the film would have been just as successful if it had a more traditionally linear format. It does work though and you are never lost with the story.
Even with the disjointed format, the story is never less than compelling. Jasper Newell as the young Kevin is the right mix of chilling and childish. I hadn’t been that creeped out by a kid since watching Omen and Kevin seems like he would out-manipulate Damian with little to no issue. It’s a testament to Ezra Miller that he manages to carry through the character that is created by Newell and turn creepy into downright scary.
The film also does a great job of setting menacing overtones. The Christmas that Kevin gets a bow and arrow, even though it is a toy one, manages to send a chill down the spine without ever really knowing why. There are also some great unanswered aspects to the story, particularly concerning Kevin’s younger Sister and an injury she sustains, that add to the overall darkness of the film.
With the tone being so grim, Tilda Swinton seems to be the perfect choice as Kevin’s Mum. She plays the broken, empty and lost character so well. Her fear that her son hates her or the joy she feels when she finally connects with him, even if it is brief, plays out brilliantly in a very understated but never less than intense performance. As good, but slightly overshadowed, is John C. Reilly who plays Kevin’s Dad and inadvertently adds to Swinton’s grief by just being more popular with her son.
All these positives couldn’t get me to connect with the film overall. I can’t quite put my finger on any real fault, even the format and the disjointed way in which it is filmed is being picky, but I did feel slightly underwhelmed when it ended. I think with the film dealing with such an awful, complicated but nevertheless interesting topic, I wanted more from it. It plays the themes slight and subtle, which is completely appropriate for the film, but not what I wanted from the movie personally. This is why I think a more traditional, linear format, would probably have suited me better, helping me to understand Kevin’s actions (if that is possible) and connect with the struggle between Mother and Son.
Overall, I personally didn’t feel We Need to Talk About Kevin was anything too special, even though is brilliantly acted, fantastically shot and interesting throughout. I feel like I wanted more from the film, hoping for it to explore the themes its dealing with in much more depth than it ever manages too. Nevertheless, well worth a watch.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)