“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is an unforgettable portrait of the baby from hell, and as such this film may not be meant for a lot of viewers.
Kevin comes into the world as a very difficult, “challenging” infant. The unconditional love between mother–Eva Khatchadourian (played to perfection by Tilda Swinton, a BAFTA nominee for this role) and child (as a teenager by the talented newcomer Ezra Miller) just doesn’t happen. In the delicate and intricate mother-child bonding requiring a mutuality of response–pick up the crying baby, baby stops crying, mother smiles, baby smiles –Kevin and his mother struggle in ways horrific and unimagined.
The movie opens with Eva Khatchadourian trying to recover from something the viewer does not know. In an alternating split between past and present action, the flashback and flashforwards confront the puzzle of Eva’s role as mother and her son’s difficult nature. Once a successful travel author, she now is employed as a clerk in a travel agency. She lives a solitary life as people who know about her situation openly shun her. The aftermath and consequences of an unknown incident have resulted in an intimidated, damaged woman with no social support. Her clueless husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly in a small but persuasive part) has consistently sided with their son over his wife, and goes beyond, encouraging Kevin’s typical (?) boy behavior.
The troubled relationship between Kevin and Eva continues until the climax near the end of the film. Although the first half with frequent flash backs and forwards leaves the viewer unsure of where we are being taken, it all fits in at the end. Questions of parental responsibility, the newborn baby who becomes the child from hell, the culpability of the relationship, and the unraveling of human bonds all come into question in this unusual and provocative film. A standout for courage and difficult subject matter!
[Available on Netflix]