The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

My first 5/5 rated movie of 2012

with 30 comments

My firstborn daughter didn’t seem to want to be in this world for her first four months of her life. She had colic and she cried constantly – loud and heartbreaking. The only time she didn’t cry was when we put her in a car and went for a ride. It didn’t take two seconds before she was sound asleep and she kept sleeping until we stopped, when she woke up abruptly, ready for more hours of screaming and crying.

When Eva, the mother of Kevin in We Need to Talk about Kevin, stops by a jackhammer, seemingly getting a relief hearing the sound of the drill over the sound of her yelling son, I know exactly where she’s coming from.

In our case the problems were temporary. One morning our daughter’s stomach was back to normal, she stopped screaming and began to sleep, at least as much as other babies sleep. In a snap those horrendous months became just a far distant memory.

For Eva however, her problems have only begun.

She and Kevin just can’t connect, no matter how hard she tries. And Kevin certainly isn’t an easy child to love. He seems to have a dark passenger, but unlike Dexter he appears to lack a code of conduct keeping it under control.

Eventually something will happen that makes Eva’s life go from bad to worse. She’s going through events that are the worst a parent could imagine and she’s torn by guilt as well as the uncovered contempt and hatred of the people in the neighbourhood.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is the first movie I’ve watched in a theatre this year to get a 5/5 rating. It was an amazing movie experience and I’m pretty sure it will be in my top 10 list of 2012. And as so often happens to me when I really, really love a movie, I find myself in a tough spot to explain why. True love is wordless. But I’ll make a five list to at least give you a few ideas.

Five reasons to love We Need to Talk about Kevin:

1. Because of Tilda Swinton
I can’t imagine Eva in any other way than how Tilda Swinton played her. It’s an amazing performance, on par with for instance Michael Fassbender in Shame. It’s beyond my comprehension why she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

2. Because it’s beautifully cinematic
We Need to Talk about Kevin is the opposite of “filmed theatre”, which I talked about in a post a few days ago. It uses the film medium to its full potential, showing rather than telling. It’s a movie that speaks to all of your senses. Even if it isn’t a “4d” movie, it was so sensual that I almost could feel the smell of tomatoes and paint and jam in my nostrils. It’s a mosaic of impressions and fragments of memory, forming a picture that isn’t complete until the final shot. The cinematography is breathtaking. While the topic is serious, it’s a joy for the eye.

3. Because it offers a new approach to an old topic
The story about what Kevin eventually does is one that has been told several times before in movies. But this isn’t yet another movie in that genre. We Need to Talk about Kevin is more than anything else a movie about Eva. It’s about what has led her to the point where she is now; it’s about what’s going on inside her – her depression, her guilt and her frustration. And it’s about how other people react to Eva and how she reacts to them. This is a perspective that I hadn’t given much thought before, but which I think is necessary to talk about. It’s thought provoking. Many people hold for true that evil deeds is something that doesn’t come out of nowhere, that it’s something that is caused by a crappy childhood. But how true is that?

4. Because the artfulness never is allowed to overshadow the storytelling
While the movie is very artistically made, it isn’t cryptic, hard to follow, overly subtle, slow or ambiguous to the point that you don’t know what the movie was about, which unfortunately sometimes happen with small arthouse movies. We’re jumping back and forward on the timeline, but it’s never hard to figure out where you are. And there is an underlying tension that made me feel fully awake, alert and eager to see what would happen next. It offers the perfect balance between being artful and engaging.

5. Because it haunts me
Some movies are just for the moment. Others stay with you, haunting you for days, months or even years to come. I have no doubt that We Need to talk about Kevin is one of those that will stay with me. It’s not only the stunning images or the creeping personality of Kevin that lingers in my mind. It’s also the perspective. The entire movie is done from the perspective of Eva, just like Martha Marcy May Marlene took Martha’s perspective. This is her recollections, her way of watching reality. But if you asked someone else, you would probably get a different story and how would that look? How much of this is real and how much is just going on in her head? I’m still wrestling with the thoughts over it and if you split the ticket fee on all the hours I will think about it, it certainly gives good value for your money.

And I’ll leave it there for now but if you want to hear more about my love for this film, you can listen to an upcoming episode of The Matineecast where Ryan McNeil and I gush over it. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsey, UK, 2011) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

February 21, 2012 at 1:00 am

30 Responses

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  1. The headline intrigues me but I’ll wait to read until I’ve seen the film I think.

    Joel Burman

    February 21, 2012 at 1:17 am

    • I think my post is fairly restraint as of spoilerish content but it is the kind of movie that probably is better the less you know. Go watch it. And hten we can talk.

      Jessica

      February 21, 2012 at 7:52 am

  2. I’ve already commented on Ryan’s review of the film. I can’t do it again.

    The film never worked for me, to say it short.

    Sam Fragoso

    February 21, 2012 at 1:17 am

    • Yeah I noticed. Well, apparently it’s a movie were people are divided. The Filmspotting guys hated it. Kermode appointed it the best movie of 2011. I’m with Kermode in this one. But I’m aware of that there are a lot of people in the opposite camp as well.

      Jessica

      February 21, 2012 at 7:53 am

  3. You just stated exactly everything into why I love this film. Plus, it confirms that Lynne Ramsay is among one of the best filmmakers working today. I just hope I don’t wait another 9 years for her next feature.

    Steven Flores

    February 21, 2012 at 2:31 am

    • It was the first of her movies I’ve watched but I really have to check up on her earlier works. This one was amazing.

      Jessica

      February 21, 2012 at 7:53 am

  4. Great post, and it’s so nice that you can get a high ranking movie so early in the year!

    I’ve heard great things about this film, but haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet. I’m hoping to soon though, and the acting and story sound really good to me.

    NeverTooEarlyMP

    February 21, 2012 at 5:26 am

    • Thanks! Yes, they say that this time of the year is the worst for movis since they’re only releasing crap while waiting for the Oscars. That may be the truth in US but definitely not where I live. I really recommend you to watch it.

      Jessica

      February 21, 2012 at 7:55 am

  5. I reviewed this yesterday… I gave it 4/5… i am not sure why it lost a point if I am honest, maybe because I was so traumatised… I am not sure. Brilliant review matey.

    Go read mine… please 🙂

    Scott Lawlor

    February 21, 2012 at 10:05 am

    • You wrote a lovely review and I agree with everything you said except for the rating. You’re so cheap!

      Jessica

      February 21, 2012 at 10:16 am

  6. I agree with you, what a movie -WHAT a movie!!! My review will be published in a couple of hours.

    Fiffi

    February 21, 2012 at 11:51 am

    • Yay! I caqn’t wait to read your take on this. No one writes glowing reviews like you do!

      Jessica

      February 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

  7. This film is so disturbing, chilling, and at times, very hard to watch but it’s terribly tense with a near-perfect performance from Swinton, who I usually don’t like but here she’s absolutely amazing and definitely deserved that Oscar nomination. Great review Jessica.

    CMrok93

    February 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    • Yay! your comment was kept hostage in a spam filter for some strange reason, but now I’ve released it. I can’t recall any other performances of Swinton, she’s not on my radar so to say, but in this role she was fantastic.

      Jessica

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

  8. Really cannot wait to see this – your review is making the waiting all the more difficult!

    • I’m glad the very negative review at FS didn’t put you off. There are qutie a few people out there who love this movie and I’m one of those.

      Jessica

      February 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

  9. I recently watched this one too, and found it excellent for the most part. I agree with all of your points above. I thought John C. Reilly didn’t quite fit the part though.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    February 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

    • TBH I barely noticed him. He was really not in the power center of this story, just a part of the furniture so to say. I didn’t mind him, but he wasn’t the reason why I loved the movie.

      Jessica

      February 22, 2012 at 8:30 am

  10. I am dying to see this! I know that Tilda will blow me away, I knot that Ezra will fascinate me but most of all, I know this movie will hunt me. I am so excited to see it that I can’t contain it! Ah!

    Julyssa

    February 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

    • What are you waiting for? It’s up in Swedish theatres now. Gogogo!

      Jessica

      February 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  11. It just missed out as my number one film of 2011 to The Tree of Life, and to be honest, I might actually say that We Need to Talk About Kevin is the better-made film – Tree of Life only got the edge because it was a personally transcendent experience. But Kevin is phenomenal, for all the reasons you state. Always glad to find more supporters of it!

    Jandy

    February 23, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    • My guess is that We Need to Talk About Kevin would have ended up at spot 3 for my 2011 movies had I watched it in 2011, right after Never Let Me Go and The Skin I Live In. Now it will be on my 2012 list instead (yes, I’ve decided to make my year lists based on when the movies have premier in Sweden.)

      The Tree of Life was transcendent in the cosmic parts, but not in everything, so it ended up a little lower on my list. Still a memorable movie and a good effort!

      Jessica

      February 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm

  12. […] Andy Buckle’s Film EmporiumLove and Squalor FilmSurrender to the VoidRow ThreeThe Oncoming HopeThe MatineeThe Velvet Cafe […]

  13. […] I fell in love with We Need to Talk about Kevin. Who didn’t? I blogged about it. I talked about it in a podcast. I’ve dropped comments all over the blogosphere, bonding with […]

  14. I really enjoyed We need to talk about Kevin too. It somewhat reminded me of the very good Elephant.

    Carra

    March 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    • I haven’t seen Elephant, but I know I really should.

      Jessica

      March 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

  15. Great review, I can see how it became even more impactful because you could relate to motherhood. I also loved the film, and reallt stayed with me as well.

    I even added a few opinions from the Matineecast(you took part in) into my review today. I also researched the book and the author’s opinions, if you’re interested.

    Chris

    April 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    • What a wonderful review you had written. So ambitious! So much research and interviews and whatnot. Very interesting! As a result of this I’ve subscribed to your blog now. Looking forward to follow it in the future. Cheers!

      Jessica

      April 14, 2012 at 12:33 am

  16. […] Andy Buckle’s Film EmporiumLove and Squalor FilmSurrender to the VoidRow ThreeThe Oncoming HopeThe MatineeThe Velvet Cafe […]

  17. […] 1. We Need to Talk about Kevin It would be an understatement to say that Kevin is a troubled boy. But this film isn’t primarily about Kevin; it’s about his mother. It’s a dark story, told in many colors that makes you think about the nature of love and the source of evil. Can lack of love make someone evil? Is it possible to forgive someone who has taken away everything from you? If this person is all you have left, do you even have a choice? I saw this film in the beginning of 2012 and it’s still resonating inside me, especially in the light of several events in US during last year. I wish this film wasn’t as relevant as it is. […]


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