Last week, I finally was able to watch the movie — “We Need to Talk About Kevin” — and I came away shocked and stunned and shaken. It is an incredible movie in every sensation. It is a modern day classic American Gothic Film. I will talk about plot points in the movie and its general dramatic construction, so if you don’t want the movie spoiled, stop reading now.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is brilliantly acted, edited and crafted. The story is told in disjointed and jarring shards of memory as we, the cathartic audience, must blend together storylines and happenstances and on-purposes to try to figure out exactly what’s going on in this frightening family. Stanley Kubrick’s editing style and directorial bent are in strong evidence here and that’s a good thing.
We, along with Tilda Swinton, realize early on there is something desperately broken in Kevin. We can see he’s damaged and disconnected, but we can’t figure out why. Tilda, as the loving mother rejected by her son, is also lost and foundering. The whole family is sinking and nobody understands why or how to fix it. Kevin appears to enjoy the idea of drowning everyone he loves in their own blood — but in the end — he too, is just as lost as everyone else in the movie.
The tension in the film begins from frame one and doesn’t ever unwind. Every subsequent frame makes the coil tighter and tighter against our necks until we cannot believe we are being strangled by circumstance we didn’t seek or ask for — but that’s the price we pay for participating in this story. You’re part of the deadly circle. You are just as innocent, and culpable, as Tilda because you’re involved and you do nothing except sit there and get acted upon by others.
In the end, We Need to Talk About Kevin asks just one, simple, question: “Why?” The fact that there’s no clear reason or sustained rationale for the tides of immoral justice just makes everything surrounding that impervious question even crueler and colder. The movie will haunt you beyond the viewing because the conundrum of evil and its deadly consequences cannot be denied and you ultimately realize we live only in chance and never in prevention and that the sad end of us all begins with a single another.