Tilda Swinton is on my list of Top 3 actresses working today. She’s so good that movies I didn’t like (I am Love and Julia) were watchable just because of her performance in them.
I was livid she didn’t get nominated for an Oscar for her role in We Need to Talk About Kevin, and I hadn’t even seen the movie at that point. I stand by that anger even now after seeing the movie, which was a mess.
What an interesting opening scene at the La Tomatina festival in Valencia. As Swinton is surrounded by red tomato juice, I thought it was well-shot and a cool metaphor. Little did I know that metaphor would be driven into the ground (red clothing, red paint, red wine…they should’ve had a product placement for Red Vines).
This sloppy film was written and directed by Lynne Ramsay. It’s the first film she’s done in 10 years, and it comes across like a film student project.
Aside from the super long buildup, parts of it are just annoying. That’s made all the more frustrating by the fact that there are such brilliant scenes. For instance, I liked some of the flashbacks, and how it wasn’t just a story that had…well…various people talking about Kevin. There was never a meeting with school counselors, police, or angry neighbors. Even the parents only have one or two conversations about him, and those are made interesting by the fact that John C. Reilly wasn’t a poorly written oaf like in early films. He’s a tad naïve, but always trying to be upbeat and positive. He can shrug off some of Kevin’s antics as “boys will be boys.”
That boy is played well as a teenager by Ezra Miller, with a pair of very angry eyes. I was much more impressed with the younger Kevin, played by newcomer Jasper Newell. I have no idea how they got a kid to not play with a ball and say the mean things he said to Swinton. One of those scenes is easily the funniest ‘birds and bees’ talks I’ve heard since an episode of All in the Family in the ‘70s.
One of my all-time favorite films is The World According to Garp. That started with a very happy baby being thrown into the air and held by Glenn Close as the bubbly Beatles sang in the background. In this, we have a crying, angry baby, while Swinton lays on a couch with a Led Zeppelin shirt and a bottle of booze and pills. A similarity would occur later, when we notice a child with an eye patch. The reveal on how that happened was a lot more interesting than some of the other things in the movie.
There was a scene with religious guys showing up at the door. When Swinton informs them that yes, she does know where she’s going after she dies (“eternal damnation…the whote bit.”). It’s a lot more powerful knowing that many in the neighborhood seem to hate her (for reasons that aren’t made clear at that point, but are easy to guess).
I liked the fact that not everything was answered for us. There’s a scene that was supposedly edited out where the mom and child have a conversation about some of his behavior. A wise choice, as I think when you have such an evil character, it’s more interesting to leave an air of mystery and not try to answer everything. Sometimes there are just bad seeds in the world (we’ve all seen The Omen, The Good Son, and we seem to hear about school shootings once a year). There were even times I thought about Rosemary’s Baby. A case could easily be made that this child was worse.
For every scene I disliked (a woman walking up and slapping Swinton in the face), there was a scene I loved (a boy in a wheelchair asking how she’s doing and telling her he may walk again). That made it all the more frustrating that I couldn’t like more of it. I really wanted to; such beautifully shot scenes.
At amusement parks they have signs that tell expectant mothers not to ride the roller coasters. Perhaps they should have warnings about not seeing this movie.
It just doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s a very unfocused film that doesn’t have a lot to say.
It gets 2 stars out of 5.