You’ve probably seen the posters for Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk about Kevin. They’re plastered with five-star hyperbole from all the posh critics, and in one version the face of Tilda Swinton has a distinctly unhealthy glow. My one criticism of this superb adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel is that Ramsay seems to be trying to outdo Dario Argento in her overuse of red. From scenes of near-religious ecstasy at La Tomatina (a Spanish tomato festival), to paint-spattered walls and oozing jam sandwiches, I guarantee you’ll still be seeing red hours later.
Novelists often complain – with good reason — about film-makers doing violence to their work. Here Ramsay finds the horror and the black humour in the perverse relationship between reluctant mom Eva (Swinton) and her calculating but uncommunicative son Kevin (played as a teenager by Ezra Miller). But the sheer nastiness of the book – particularly Kevin’s Robin Hood-style rampage – is handled with admirable restraint.
Both Eva and Kevin are selfish and cruel, but you can’t take your eyes off them. Swinton’s typically fearless performance peels back the layers of guilt and self-loathing to leave you with some hope that Eva might find redemption. Jasper Newell oozes repressed rage as the eerily silent younger Kevin, and when Miller slinks onscreen – all razor-sharp cheekbones and smouldering looks – you know he’s going to piss all over the American Dream.
(This review was originally published on the now-defunct London Festival Fringe website and was never available on my own blog.)