Evil is unspectacular and always human…
Oscilloscope – We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) is a psychologically exhaustive film that can nag at the bitter underside of your emotions to a point where you may start to question the paradigm between parenthood and uncertainty. The film is based on Lionel Shriver‘s novel of the same name and adapted into a screenplay by writer/director Lynne Ramsay, that centers mostly around Eva (Tilda Swinton), a mother trying to raise her malevolent son, Kevin (Ezra Miller) and trying to survive the reality of his horrible actions.
Eva is a successful travel writer who meets and marries Franklin (John C. Reilly), and has little Kevin with him. As with many women who have their first young child, Eva put her successful career on hold so she could raise him. Kevin, cleverly aware of Eva’s exhaustive flaws as a parent, contrived sinister acts of rebellion against his mother eventually transcends to his younger sister and the irrevocable havoc his behavior transcends into the community.
The true focus of this film isn’t particularly on Kevin, nor is it about the specific incident that unfolds toward the end of the tediously jagged path it drives us to. It is about a woman who is struggling to maintain a career and family–and all the difficulties that come with it. Immediately identifiable, a marriage and children was something that Eva truly did not want. She wanted to spend her time–her life–traveling and enjoying the life she had before Franklin, and certainly, a life she immensely enjoyed before Kevin.
…and shares our bed and eats at our table – W. H. Auden
I could go into the specifics of Kevin’s actions in the film, but I don’t think that is the true intent for the film. It was the dynamics that went on between Kevin and Eva–the details or behaviors of Kevin were more or less a series of piss contests: the toddler-Kevin (Rocky Duer) refused to speak no matter how much his mother, Eva wanted him to do so; and as a 7-year old, Kevin would still be wearing diapers–the kid would purposely shit his pants just so his mother could change him. As a teenager, he (Miller) would mock his mother, poke fun at her for drinking a lot, taunt her with forced acts of kindness and tormented his little sister. He knew exactly how to inflict emotional turmoil on his mother. This dude reveled in it.
The film is not as linear as I would have liked. It proceeded in a series of flashbacks, events in time which rendered the film a tad bit confusing–as an attempt to ‘read’ Eva’s mind, trying to discern those moments where she was trying to pinpoint the exact moments where she may have erred as a mother. Or maybe attempt to recall those moments in her life where she was most happy. What is evident is she never wanted to be married, and she did not want to have children.
The problem with this film is that it did not give us an underlying reason why Kevin behaved the way he did–it just didn’t do enough to to explain him or his actions. Instead, we feel sorry for his mother, and at the same time are enraged that she did not see what was coming. There were more questions raised without a clear method for resolve: what did all the ‘red’ in the film symbolize? From the very beginning, we see Eva’s character dancing in red tomatoes during an Italian tomato festival, her home and car vandalized in red paint, and the red wine she always drank. As if her life and her thoughts were immersed in the bloodbath that came in the end.
The acting performances by both Swifton and Miller were a huge part in the book’s successful adaptation to film. The younger “Kevin” performers were equally phenomenal. Cohesive acting performances made the film, and if it were not for casting such amazing talents the film would have definitely lacked its emotional perspective.
Overall, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a intensively poignant and mindbogglingly haunting film. Regardless of how you view it, the important thing is that it balances tragedy with compelling acting performances and impeccable cinematography. It is just as poetic as it is tragic. A must see film.
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