Film Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin
A Shocking - and Frustrating - Guilt Trip
I wanted to like this movie, but I found myself shouting at the screen so many times that, by the time the story wrapped up, I wasn't rooting for anyone. A dark take on the whole "bad seed" theme, Tilda Swinton play the frustrated mother to a child with so many problems, it's hard to know where to start. And, while most of his aggression is aimed directly at her, I find it hard to believe that NO ONE else in his life (teachers, neighbors, the other people in town) noticed his disturbing behavior as a child. His father is clueless, always siding with the child even as he's defiant in front of the parents. "He's a boy...that's what boys do." Um, no. This kid clearly has psychological issues--anyone can see that.
But the filmmakers choose to ignore that and blame nearly everything on the mother. She tries and tries to connect with her son, and he's nothing but snide and manipulative, to the point where the movie drifts from being a twisted family tale into straight up horror movie land. Whenever she notices him doing something wrong, he always looks up and her and smiles. ALWAYS, even when she's in the kitchen and he's outside and can't possibly know where she is or what she's thinking. It's all over the top guilt aimed squarely at the one person who's actually trying to fix the problem.
In the end, they don't "talk about Kevin," and that's the primary issue. Maybe if they had, things would have turned out differently. I liked that the filmmaker chose to show less violence than she could have, but I wonder why--the entire film sets up how evil this child is, but then, in the end, the filmmaker protects us from seeing the result of that evil. Again, it feels like an attempt to excuse or cover up his behavior. The film ends up just being a frustrating exercise in bad parenting, bad judgement, and blaming your kids for ruining the fun, tomato-themed life you had before they came along.
By the way, as a parent and member of the community, I find it hard to believe this kid's behavior would be tolerated. It starts at the beginning and just gets worse--but the mother doesn't seem to realize that her child is different. I can't believe she doesn't talk to other parents to get a sense of what kinds of behaviors are normal rebellion and which ones are clearly sociopathic. And after the "incident," I would have moved away. The only reason she would choose to stay in the same town is for the punishment, blaming herself for what happened. She's found her own personal hell, and she thinks what Kevin did was her fault--and she should pay the price. I found it unbelievable, though. All kids are special and different, but a kid like that needs professional help, not a new bow and arrow. Thanks Dad!