I am a huge procrastinator when it comes to books, movies and television shows. Though I love all three, it sometimes takes me a while to really get into them and actually commit to their narratives. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” wasn’t an exception. A friend recommended me the book, which I promptly bought, read the first twenty pages and forgot about for the next four months. Aside from being a procrastinator, you should also know that I have a pretty obsessive personality, which means that once I actually get into whatever book, movie or show I’m reading or watching, I spend countless days and nights focusing all of my attention on that. And, once again, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was not an exception to this rule. For the following week, I spent every free moment reading this book and as soon as I was done I knew I had to watch the movie, and I’m going to talk a little bit about it today.
The book follows a series of letters from Eva Katchadourian to her estranged husband Franklin. In them, she recounts the beginning of their relationship and birth of their son, Kevin, a now troubled teenager who has gone on a killing spree in his school. The movie doesn’t use the letter format, but instead makes everything look like a series of scattered memories and dreamlike sequences that ended up getting the characters to where they are in the present. The visual assets the movie uses to convey this are extremely effective, and the constant use of red in the different scenes makes the whole experience even grittier and more disturbing.
The movie has its performances working in its favor. Like I said before, I am terrified of Tilda Swinton, and even though that’s not exactly the point of her character here, there’s just that edge to her performance (as there always is) that leaves you tense and wondering what’s about to happen next. Even though she spends most of the movie quietly contemplating the state of her life, it looks like something is about to burst just below the surface. Ezra Miller is also in the category of terrifying actors, and his performance here is unsettling. The way he (and both the other boys who play Kevin at a younger age) masters the cold, expressionless eyes is perfectly fitting for the character, and makes every event of the movie even more convincing. The only casting choice that got me a little confused was John C. Reilly as Franklin, because he’s definitely not what I imagined while reading the book (even though he’s in the cover). He did a good job, but he just felt off as opposed to Swinton and Miller, but maybe that was the point.
I don’t like comparing the book to the movie too much because, as different mediums, I get that they will be translated differently and that the person who’s reading or watching it will feel things according to that. I have to say, however, that if you’ve only seen the movie, you definitely have to read the book. The amount of detail Lionel Shriver puts in makes up for an extremely intimate look into these characters’ lives, and the fact that it told by Eva, an unreliable narrator, also gets you thinking about all of the age old questions about nature versus nurture. I definitely recommend that you check both the movie and the book out!
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