We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin ★★½

Despite the film's muted attempts to shock the viewer with Eva's manifest discomfort with the changes that having Kevin has brought into her life, it actually communicates a startingly conventional, if modulated, message of the tenacity of maternal love.

The film's strategy of compressing the adapted epistolary first person narrative voice of the novel into a series of overly emotive expressionist moments - the blots of colour on the windshield, etc. - has the effect of reducing the nuances of Eva's internal conflicts, literally abstracting them out of articulation. While this is a decision weighted on the side of the image and cinema over the written word, it has less than ideal consequences.

What remains is a familiar take on the put upon mother accompanied by what become rather unconvincing gestures toward her perceived or feared complicity in her son's disposition and crimes. The film exploits the hindsight and its alignment with Eva's perspective to, perhaps too uncomplicatedly, paint Kevin as an out and out monster when the tone of the film strains toward subtler nuances. The potentially poignant Lady MacBeth motif of red hand washing is repeated to the point of meaninglessness in the film's first half, demonstrating the film's lack of faith in its viewer to engage with and/or disentangle the complexities inherent to its project.

Tilda's turn as Eva is unsurprisingly solid, while John C. Reilly makes for a flimsy foil. The casting crew's ability to find so many young actors who can similarly scowl with dead eyes is to be lauded.