We Need to Talk About Kevin is transfixing and traumatizing

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Starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, February 10, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

Is your love for Tilda Swinton greater than your fear of movies involving evil children? If you’re a chickenshit, the transfixing, traumatizing We Need to Talk About Kevin is devilish, because it’s got both the freakishly talented Swinton and a kid you want to smother with his favourite stuffie before something bad happens. Oh, too late.

It’s no spoiler to say that a tragedy occurs that is a psychological horror for tender viewers and a horror all around for Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton). Cowriter-director Lynne Ramsay wielded vivid, discomfiting images in 2002’s Morvern Callar and uses those tricks here (red—as in tomatoes, paint, and blood—is big) in telling the tale in fractured memories through Eva’s fractured membrane. If you’d birthed a monster, you’d be effed-up too.

Kevin (eerily played from toddler to teen by Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and Ezra Miller) seems colicky, then autistic, then sociopathic—you know, like all children. He has a from-the-womb hate-on for Eva, eyeballing her with such menace one feels instant queasy dread. Who knew breaking crayons and rejecting potty training could be so creepy? And that’s before a cute little sister (Ashley Gerasimovich) arrives. Dad Franklin (a perversely affable John C. Reilly), incidentally, insists Kevin is a “good kid”. Kevin is also aces at archery.

Kevin—at every age—is so calculatingly diabolical that the vibe does stray into The Omen turf. But it’s uncanny how the young actors’ chilly, hypnotic beauty mirrors that of Swinton, whose cold eyes nevertheless telegraph hideous grief and guilt.

“Mommy used to be happy! Now Mommy wakes up every day and wishes she were in France!” Eva blurts out—a darkly witty reminder that kids can, uh, totally wreck your life. One also wonders, briefly, which came first: the sociopathy or a mother who can’t love her spawn? But some kids are just bad seeds. Right?


Watch the trailer for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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