(director/writer: Lynne Ramsay; screenwriters: Rory Kinnear/from the novel by Lionel Shriver; cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey; editor: Joe Bini; music: Jonny Greenwood; cast: Tilda Swinton (Eva), John C. Reilly (Franklin), Ezra Miller (Kevin as a teenager), Jasper Newell (Kevin as a six-year-old), Rock Duer (Kevin as a toddler), Siobhan Fallon(Wanda), Ashley Gerasimovich(Celia), Alex Manette (Colin), Kenneth Franklin (Soweto); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Luc Roeg/Jennifer Fox/Robert Salerno; Oscilloscope; 2011-UK)

“A powerful cerebral film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-made and superbly acted adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s best-selling book. It’s flawlessly directed by Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher”/”Morvern Callar’”), who co-writes it with her husband Rory Kinnear. The downbeat psychological family drama is about a severely disturbed child who drives his mom nuts with his coldness for her but despite getting his parents love he never gets the professional help he needs to deal with his problems and ends up going on a high school and family killing rampage at 16. It’s a thought-provoking film that tries to answer why the disturbed child became a mass killer and if anything could have been done to prevent it, but it has long stretches requiring the viewer to be observant without being force-fed answers and that might not appeal to a wide audience looking only for entertainment value.

Red is the arousing violent color of choice for this pic. It opens at a Spanish festival where a large crowd pour tomatoes and tomato juice over their bodies, as red decorates the traditional bacchanal festival. Later there’s the red paint vandals throw on the Tilda Swinton character’s modest house, the red soup can labels Swinton hides behind to avoid the stares of angry judgmental parents at the supermarket and the stunning shot of blood all over Swinton’s house from the monster child’s many victims after he goes on a killing spree.

The first child of Eva (Tilda Swinton) and Franklin (John C. Reilly) is the hostile, creepy and bad behaving Kevin, a child mom didn’t want and had a difficult delivery. The couple years later give their troubled six-year-old son (Jasper Newell) a little sister named Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich), whom Kevin takes delight in abusing. The manipulative Kevin learns to treat all his family members with fake affection, and thereby narrowly avoids being targeted for professional counseling. The film follows through many back and forth flashbacks from the present tortured mind of Eva, as she retraces how difficult it was to raise such an angry child–a child who appears to have come out of the womb evil and hating her. The clueless friendly father Franklin thinks Kevin will outgrow his childhood problems and when Kevin is 16, dad gives his loner son (Ezra Miller) an archery set-up for Christmas–a gift Kevin greatly appreciates and is the only thing in the world the kid seems to enjoy. The bow and arrow will later become the expert archer’s weapon of choice in his bloody attack.

The family lives in a beautiful mansion-like home in upstate New York, but after the killing spree the ostracized Eva moves to a more modest home in the suburban village and supports herself working at a low-level typist job at a travel agency.

The movie, for the most part, takes place in the anxiety-ridden Eva’s head, as she searches for answers why this tragedy took place and wonders if her loveless marriage played a part. After examining everything she can think of, she forlornly thinks that the whole point is that there’s no point to explain such a senseless bloody tragedy.

It’s a powerful cerebral film, that realizes it can’t get into the head of the arrogant monster but can get into the head of his sensitive guilt-ridden mother. Few films do such a good job showing the grief and responsibility felt by the mother of a killer, a monster who inexplicably wasn’t able to love another person.

We Need To Talk About Kevin