Scottish director Lynne Ramsay doesn't make it easy on herself. For her comeback film, after an almost ten-year absence since Morvern Callar and an aborted attempt at adapting The Lovely Bones, she picks Lionel Shriver's somber novel about a mother whose teenage son is in prison for committing a cold-blooded massacre in his high school. Then, she goes ahead and shoots it in such a way that no viewer can take pleasure in this relentlessly bleak, almost unbearable film.

     And yet, We Need to Talk About Kevin is an impressive, remarkable achievement; a superbly controlled, if admittedly cerebral, experience where every single element of cinema is extraordinarily and loving laid out by Ms. Ramsay for maximum effect. From her masterful usage of a fragmented, shattered chronology to the impeccably geometrical setups and Seamus McGarvey's crisp, clinical widescreen framings, everything serves a single purpose: plunging the viewer inside the world of Eva Khachadourian (Tilda Swinton), a successful travel writer whose jet-setting ways are curtailed by her marriage and by her firstborn, Kevin. An eerie child who seems to exude some sort of malevolent energy from a young age, Kevin embarks quickly on an unnerving tug-of-war with Eva, a power game that runs throughout the film's 18-year timespan. And because everything is filtered through Eva's shellshocked, after-the-fact reappraisal, the viewer can never be sure of what is going on or of its ultimate truth - which adds a layer of disquiet to the tale's already edgy discomfort.

     Casting is pitch-perfect - Ms. Swinton is outstanding as the woman trapped in a mother's worst nightmare, Ezra Miller conveniently menacing as the older, teenage Kevin. Ms. Ramsay expertly lets the film see-saw queasily between a self-flagellating exploration of guilt and a hopelessly unattainable quest for a redemption that never comes, even though the film's final minutes open a glimpse of humanity that was very hard to come by beforehand. A ruthless, uncomfortable, utterly accomplished, strangely admirable film.

Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller.
     Director, Lynne Ramsay; screenplay, Ms. Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear, from the novel by Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin; cinematography, Seamus McGarvey (colour, processing by DeLuxe, Panavision widescreen); music, Jonny Greenwood; designer, Judy Becker; costumes, Catherine George; editor, Joe Bini; producers, Luc Roeg, Jennifer Fox, Robert Salerno (Independent Film Productions in association with Artina Films, Rockinghorse Films, Caemhan, Panaramic, Beryl Betty and Atlantic Swiss Productions for BBC Films and The UK Film Council), United Kingdom/USA, 2010, 112 minutes.
     Screened: distributor advance screener DVD, Lisbon, April 29th 2012.



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