Sunday, 16 October 2011
“Well, that was cheerful, wasn’t it?” muttered a middle-aged man as the credits rolled at the small basement cinema in Covent Garden where we’d just seen a preview of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
The rest of us didn’t utter a word. I, for one, felt like I’d just been run over by a ten-ton steam-roller. I’d gone to the movie with my teenage daughter but was so emotionally wrung-out by what I’d just seen that I could barely speak till we were halfway back to the tube station.
There’s no way you can feel indifferent about We Need to Talk About Kevin, the much-anticipated film of Lionel Shriver’s 2005 Orange Prize winning novel. It’s the story of Eva, a mother who puts her ambitions and career aside when she has her first child, Kevin. But far from building a warm, loving bond, the icy-cool Eva finds herself unable to love her son and can’t relate to him at all. Whether she’s throwing a ball to him, playing mini-golf or taking him for a meal at a restaurant when he’s a teenager, their relationship is brittle, artificial and chilling.
Even though the subject matter is grim, the film is beautifully shot. It moves back and forth in time, from the days when Eva was a go-getting travel writer to the aftermath of the horrific high-school massacre perpetrated by the teenage Kevin. The colour red features throughout the film, from opening images of Eva taking part in a tomato throwing festival in Spain to her house and car being daubed with red paint following Kevin’s shocking act - red paint which Eva constantly attempts to scrub off her hands.
There’s no doubt that Tilda Swinton (above), as Eva, gives the performance of her career, and Ezra Miller as the teenage Kevin, is utterly mesmerising. But for me, watching Eva grapple with her feelings of grief and responsibility for her son and his actions was just too much to bear.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay and with a 15 certificate, We Need to Talk About Kevin is released on October 21. It’s controversial, shocking and thought-provoking – but not easy to watch.