We Need to Talk About Kevin This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 22, 2013
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Lynne Ramsay's disturbing film “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is an intense psychological drama about the relationship between a sadistic teen, Kevin (Ezra Miller) and his naive mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton). The film documents the family history in flashbacks from Eva's perspective as she attempts to decode how her son went so horribly wrong.

Kevin wasn't a “bad” child in the traditional sense, yet he carried out an unforgivable crime. He changed his life, his mother's, and hundreds of ­others when he entered his high school one day armed with a bow and arrows. Now Kevin awaits placement in ­federal prison at 18, and his mother must confront the town, along with her own demons.

Unsettling, disquieting, and relentlessly grim, this film ­addresses the issue of school violence through a fictional story, adding depth by showing its impact on both family and victims.

My problems with the film aren't related to the subject (I knew what I was getting into), but rather with the director's blatant manipulations to further disturb the audience. One example shows a flashback to the massacre itself. Because of hints during the film, it's fairly easy for us to understand why Kevin did what he did, though it certainly never excuses his actions. However, there are no clues left by screenwriters Rory Kinnear and Lynne Ramsay as to why Kevin would take issue with his father (John C. Reilly) and younger sister (Ashley Gerasimovich). In fact, the scenes with Kevin and them are some of the most pleasant of the film. Kevin is a horrifically troubled teenager, not a psychopath who commits violence at random.

What helps this film overcome this are outstanding ­performances. Reilly, Miller, and most notably Swinton are simultaneously thought-provoking, grounded, and terrifying. In Swinton's hands, Eva is a character you empathize with and root for, despite clear flaws in her parenting. Miller is realistically vile as Kevin – a perfect combination of well-written character and performance. Sadly, Reilly isn't given much to do, but his moments as the kind and lightly comedic dad add pleasantness to a film that desperately needs it.

This is a bleak film about an indescribably bleak topic. While it suffers from flaws in character logic, along with some scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” boasts incredible performances that hold it up in its most unsettling moments. However, be warned as to whether you can handle the material.

This film is rated R.,

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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