Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

We Need to Talk About Kevin


To quote Roger Ebert (not about this film), I hated, hated, hated this movie. Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, how bad could it be? Well, the acting is fine, as I expected, but everything else about it rubbed me raw.

Tilda is a rather awkward, nervous, tentative woman who bears a child who, right out of the womb, reveals himself to be the devil’s seed. He never stops screaming when she’s tending him. When Pop has him, he’s a little angel. He grows up into Malcolm McDowell, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jack Nicholson, and all those other Kubrick crazy men with that patented under-the-eyebrow sneer … and he’s only six! He hasn’t even gotten started yet! He deliberately poops in his pants, just to make mummy mad. He never speaks to her, but around dad he’s a little cherub. He grows older, I dunno, fifteen or so. He hates his little sister, kills her guinea pig, “accidentally” leaves drain cleaner out so she loses an eye. It is clear to anyone looking that the kid is a psychopath and should be put down like a mad dog. So guess what? He goes to school one day and kills a lot of people with a bow and arrow, then surrenders. Oh, before he went to school he kills his dad and little sister, too.

First of all, I didn’t believe this bullshit for a second. I know there are psychopathic children, evil children, if you will, but I don’t believe a squalling infant can take an instant dislike to his mother. Ridiculous! So what do we have here? Is it a horror movie, where we just postulate this is literally the devil’s child, or some such horseshit? It sure doesn’t look like one. Or is it supposed to be an exploration of what it must be like to bear a mass murderer? That could have been a good film. People are splashing red paint all over her house and car. She is slapped by a total stranger who wishes she would rot in hell. (That total stranger, BTW, who happens to be a woman, would find herself on the ground, bleeding profusely in the next two seconds if she came up and slapped me. I’m not a turn-the-other-cheek sort of pathetic asshole, and you don’t get a free pass because you’re wearing a dress.) She’s shunned in the supermarket and all over town. (Obvious question: Why doesn’t she just fucking move? Go someplace where no one knows you. Answer: I guess she needs to visit the monster in jail, poor fool that she is.)

Really, though, what must it be like for the mothers of Klebold and Harris, or Jared Loughner, or Kip Kinkel (well, she’s dead, come to think of it, the suffering is over). A mass murderer came out of your womb. How do you deal with that? I’ve read some heartbreaking stories from families whose evil spawn went out and did unthinkable things. They are just as much victims as the dead and the families of the dead. Could have been a good movie there.

As if it weren’t bad enough, this film is so artsy-fartsy it’s enough to make you puke. It opens at that crazy tomato festival in Spain, where everybody wades in tomatoes. We see Tilda body-surfing the crowd, sinking into a literal sea of bright red tomato paste. Red, red, red, red. Okay, we get it! There’s blood in her nightmares. Then, everywhere we turn, it’s more red. Paint on the house, flashing red lights, cans of tomato soup in the market. We are bludgeoned with red. And of course the story is told non-sequentially, hopping around with seldom a two-shot or anything at all shot straight. We see horrific distorted reflections, extreme close-ups or a single eye … no point in going on more. You’ve seen the like. Naturally they save the real horror for the last, and it’s artsy-fartsy, too. Frankly, the only reason I stayed around until the end was that I needed to see exactly what this monster had done. I really shouldn’t have bothered. Neither should you. This is a movie I didn’t just dislike, I wanted to exorcise it.

Lynne Ramsey, who directed this disaster, has only done two other feature films. One was Morvern Callar, which I hated even more than this one, didn’t even finish it. Her other film is called Ratcatcher, which I will do my utmost to avoid forever.