Reviewed Feb 29, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
Lynne Ramsay’s first film in nine years is a tricky one, both in subject matter and presentation. Everybody should be familiar with the story by now but despite the inevitability of what is to come the film still manages to shock. It is a sensationalist tale but to its credit it is not shot in a sensational or exploitative manner. In many ways it is a horror film with all the genre tropes stripped away. Instead what we get is a fragmentary film about a mother struggling with her responsibility to love her son. The film certainly raises difficult questions (is a bond between mother and child unbreakable? Does evil occur through nature or nurture? etc.) and pleasingly it doesn’t try to answer any of them. Some may find this a cop out but I think it is far more successful by trying to engage and challenge an audience rather than trying to clumsily reach for pat resolutions.
Ramsay manages to make the film shocking without actually resorting to showing any of Kevin’s acts on screen. The disjointed narrative, flashing back and forth in time, is a disorienting device that quite quickly sets you on edge. Mercifully the choppy editing is toned down as the film progresses, giving time to the family unit and how the relationships work, but it is a bold opening move that will no doubt put some people off. Tilda Swinton has deservedly been getting most of the attention for her stunning performance but Ezra Miller is brilliantly unnerving as older Kevin. It is disappointing to see John C. Reilly wasted in his role as the father but the film is very much about the mother-child relationship so there is logic to why the father is kept in the background. Although she is critically acclaimed I’ve never been a huge fan of Ramsay’s work (despite all her films being beautifully photographed) yet this feels like her most complete film to date and I look forward to what comes next.
A film that will linger in the memory thanks both to the subject matter and the execution.