SYNOPSIS: A suspenseful and gripping psychological thriller, Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the factious relationship between a mother and her son. Tilda Swinton, in a bracing, tour-de-force performance, plays the mother, Eva, as she contends for 15 years with the increasing malevolence of her first-born child, Kevin (Ezra Miller). Academy Award Nominee John C. Reilly is the eternally optimistic husband and father, blind to the devastating dynamics around them.


A word of caution – if you’re looking for some light-hearted entertainment, then stay far away from ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, because you’re not going to like the intense viewing experience it offers. But anyone looking for a topically relevant drama should look no further than Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsey’s masterful adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s prize-winning novel, which also boosts one of the best performances of Tilda Swinton’s career.

We’ll be upfront and let you know that Shriver’s novel and hence Ramsay’s movie is a disturbing watch. The titular character is a 16-year-old boy who brings a bow and arrow to school one day, locks up the school hall, and massacres his fellow schoolmates trapped in the place. Not only that, he does something even more dreadful to his family just before proceeding on his rampage, but we won't spoil the surprise here for those who are yet familiar with the source material.

Co-adapted by Ramsey and Rory Stewart Kinnear, the film explores not the event itself but the person responsible for it. Indeed, right from the very beginning of his birth, it seemed clear that Kevin was no ordinary child. Not only would he cry uncontrollably for prolonged periods of time, he was extremely unruly and defiant, much to the chagrin of his mother Eva (Swinton).

The dynamic between mother and son is at the forefront of the story, taut and tense like nothing you've seen before. We witness at first how Eva regards her newborn with ambivalence, almost taking him as an unnecessary addition to her life. Whether as a consequence of that or not, Kevin grows up to favour his dad, Franklin (John C. Reilly) over his mother and let's just say you haven't quite seen emotional manipulation till you see how Kevin treats Eva.

So cunning is Kevin that he knows how to purposely cover up his mother's responsibility in breaking his arm just so he can use it against her later on. On the other hand, Franklin is unable to understand Eva's frustration with Kevin and tries without avail to mend ties between the pair. The family gets even more complicated with the arrival of Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich), whom Eva regards as the perfect child Kevin never was.

Such plot machineries typically belong to the horror genre, where Kevin would be the equivalent of a 'demon child' in whom malevolence resides. But Ramsey balances the horror elements with the drama adroitly, with the film firmly rooted in the realities of family dysfunction and every moment never less than a fascinating watch.

That is also thanks to an outstanding cast, led by none other than Swinton's tour de force performance. She portrays her character's anxiety, confusion, helplessness, desperation and plain shock all too keenly, and the accolades and awards she has won for the role are clearly well deserved. Swinton is complemented by perfectly disturbing performances in Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller - playing Kevin as a child and teenager respectively - both of them thoroughly unnerving every step of the  way.

Ramsey further challenges his viewers with a fractured narrative that is disorientating to say the least, told through the eyes of Eva as she attempts to rebuild her life following Kevin's arrest in the wake of the horrific incident. The myraid chronological bits are not told in sequence; rather they are pieced together the same fragmented way we would recall the past as it becomes triggered by some person or event in the present. Though it isn't straightforward, the juxtaposition makes the film even more intriguing, and on hindsight a brilliant storytelling technique.

Like we said at the start, this is not your typical easy nor comfortable film to watch. Yet it is extremely prescient in today's context in light of the numerous school shootings, a gripping study of the birth of an unlikely monster. If there is a lesson to the madness, it is this - only in confronting the hard truths of what our children might be becoming can parents act to weed out festering evil. 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' is indeed a film that every serious minded film viewer needs to watch..


The best extra you'll find on this Region 3 disc is the 27-min featurette "Behind the Scenes of Kevin",  where both cast and crew talk about the film as well as their respective characters. In particular, director Lynne Ramsay also sheds light on the process of adapting the book for the big screen and the directorial decisions he took on the set. 

"Extra Footage from "La Tomatina" Tomato Festival" offers some 4 mins more of the opening scene, which sees Eva soaking up the atmosphere of the real-life festival. "In Conversation with Tilda Swinton" is a 17-min interview session that Swinton had at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival, which was moderated by writer/theater critic Hilton Als. The last of the features contains a short 4-min clip "Interview with author Lionel Shriver" who discusses both the novel as well as the changes made to the adaptation.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 offers a surprisingly solid tech package - dialogue is clear and sharp, and directional effects are well calibrated with the visuals on screen. Picture offers a balanced colour palette, and has no visible flaws throughout. 



Review by Gabriel Chong



Genre: Drama
Starring: John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton, Siobhan Fallon, Ezra Miller, Anna Kuchma, Ashley Gerasimovich, Ursula Parker, Jasper Newell, Rock Duer
Director: Lynne Ramsay 
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes and Disturbing Content)
Year Made: 2012


- Behind The Scenes of KEVIN
- Extra Footage from "La Tomatina" Tomato Festival 
- In Conversation with Tilda Swinton
- Interview with Author Lionel Shriver
- Original Theatrical Trailer


Languages: English
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins
Region Code: 3