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We Need to Talk About Kevin (DQ)


Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller

Director: Lynne Ramsay

It's hard to imagine Tilda Swinton in a comedy, and that haunted, anguished look of hers is well in evidence throughout this well-shaped and well-shot film about a high school massacre and the teenage perpetrator (Miller), who is, of course, Swinton's son, the eponymous Kevin.

Kevin screams all the time as a baby, refuses to play, remains in nappies until five or six and grows into the nearest thing to a demon child this side of Damien in the 'Omen' films. Forever mean and vicious to his mother, he's a different boy to his well-meaning but over-indulgent father (Reilly), who fatefully trains him in archery.

Though this series of events is grindingly effective, we spot that the title is actually a misnomer: the parents never really do talk about Kevin, partly since they see him from different perspectives. But where are America's child psychologists when they're clearly needed?

The film is liberally splashed with red in slightly self-conscious fashion, preparing us for the massacre which in fact we never see. This climax, although almost stylised, fails to convince. We never see how Kevin assembles his victims, nor how he manages to kill them all with a bow and arrows. It's equally tough to understand how Swinton herself becomes a pariah, one woman attacking her in the street and screaming: 'I hope you rot in hell, you bitch'.

But, even if the film never quite gets to you, Swinton and the three boys who play Kevin are all startlingly effective, especially Miller as the older teenager, who commits his crimes just before his 16th birthday so that he can be tried as a minor. With all its faults, this is still probably the director's most accomplished work to date.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2010. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour by deluxe.
112 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 19 Oct 2011