HomeVideodrome: ‘Kevin’ Shrewdly Revisits Nature vs. Nurture Debate
Creepy kids have been a staple of horror movies for some time, almost all of them being manipulative little monsters masking themselves under a veneer of innocence.
Despite the clever ruse, usually an honest kid or a suspicious adult sees through to the child's sinister nature, leaving it up to them to foil the bad seed's diabolical plans. These films typically affirm the paranoia of the protagonist, but rarely do they dig into their mental state in a manner as frighteningly layered as the way director Lynn Ramsey does in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
David Bowie impersonator Tilda Swinton plays an adventurer/author named Eva who gives birth to a baby boy named Kevin (Ezra Miller). Told through a flashback structure, it becomes apparent from the get-go that Kevin is responsible for a heinous crime in his teenage years, cutting back and forth between Eva's haunted existence and Kevin's difficult upbringing.
Kevin is a terror of a child, always screaming, refusing to potty train and, as he grows older, his behavior towards his younger sister is unsettling to say the least, despite his seemingly normal relationship with his affable father (John C. Reilly). But Eva's fear of her son is apparent early-on in Kevin's life, and we're never sure how much of her son's perceived behavior is a projection of her own maternal guilt after Kevin becomes a monster in the eyes of the public, turning Eva into a pariah among her peers.
Whenever we hear about an alienated high school kid shooting up a school, the question of nature versus nurture usually comes up, and how much responsibility weighs on the parents (when the media isn't wasting its time focusing on violent music and video games, of course).
What sets "We Need to Talk About Kevin" apart from other bad seed movies is how it focuses the majority of its energy on this subject, as the guilt Eva carries around for her son's crimes is felt like a mountain of corpses chained to her back. Much of the film feels like her character trying to reconcile her own failures and inadequacies with the evil that may have been simply inherent in her son's heart. Who is ultimately at fault is up to you.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Man on a Ledge: Despite a pulpy premise, I can't say this movie interests me at all. Sam Worthington isn't a presence that I find has much in the way of gravitas, though John Nolte seemed to like it.
Coriolanus: Ralph Fiennes directs this modern-day militaristic adaptation of one of Shakespeare's more obscure plays. Featuring a screenplay adapted by "Gladiator" scribe John Logan, it looks to be an entertaining take on an unfamiliar piece.
Goon: A hockey comedy starring Seann William Scott that was the subject of some lively conversation by Louis Fowler and John Grace over at the excellent Damaged Viewing podcast. It also makes me think of that wonderful Warren Zevon hockey song.
Gone: A thriller starring Amanda Seyfried and Wes Bentley. Be sure to check out Christian Toto's mixed review of the Blu-ray.
Summer with Monika: Criterion is releasing this sensual Ingmar Bergman title at the perfect time for the season.
Summer Interlude: Another seasonal Bergman title from Criterion. You have to wonder why they didn't just bundle them together.
This post originally appeared over at Parcbench.