My first 5/5 rated movie of 2012
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