The first thing you may notice in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is the profusion of red that permeates most of the frames. This is the kind of red that results from the blood of carnage – the kind that you can never completely wash away. But it also symbolizes the blood line that forever conjoins mother and child.
The portrayal of that blood line never ceases to fascinate in this lurid and engrossing “horror” film that examines the painful development of a sociopath, and the aftermath suffered by a mother whose son committed multiple murders during a high school rampage.
Really, it’s about the paralyzing fear of parenthood. Is there such a thing as a bad seed? How can a parent be so intrinsically linked to their child, and yet so entirely disconnected from them? Where does the burden of responsibility end?
The approach taken by writer/director Lynne Ramsay is a brave one. By imposing a style more commonly relegated to the horror genre, she runs the risk of belittling or sensationalizing a grave and serious subject. But the style reflects the horror that is this mother’s existence, and the remnants of destruction her offspring leaves in his wake.
Tilda Swinton is remarkable as the failed parent, and produces a series of conflicting emotions with harrowing truthfulness. Her performance is characterized by expressions of alarmed concern and tortured paranoia, while at the same time feeling curiously remote and muted.
Thoughtful, horrifying and satisfyingly ambiguous, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is one of the year’s best films.