We need to talk about kevin, and also how good the movie is

Hannah Feinberg ('12)/Eastside Underground Editor

We need to talk about We Need to Talk about Kevin.  Gripping, horrifying, nearly unwatchable, We Need to Talk about Kevin artfully dissects the complex relationship between mother and sadistic son.  Adapted from the best-seller of the same name, We Need to Talk about Kevin muddles the line between nature and nurture, reinventing the ancient debate with modern cinematic nihilism.  Director Lynne Ramsay deftly crafts a domestic horror story, unfolding a mother’s worst nightmare with shocking realism and complexity.
The movie follows Eva Khachadourian, played by Tilda Swinton, at her starkly hopeless best, trying to raise her son, Kevin, as he grows from difficult infant to impertinent toddler to unnerving teen. Played with disturbing composure by Rock Duer and Jasper Newell, the young Kevin precociously exploits his mother’s exasperation, confusion and persisting love with calculated hatred.   Doe-eyed Kevin takes every childhood landmark — learning to read, potty-training, a new sibling – as an opportunity to frustrate his mother.  He jeers her affection, but plays the angel for his father, a ruse he continues till the bitter end.   Yet the mother/son dynamic is never quite clear.  Is Eva the victim of her son’s innate hatred?  Or is he merely reacting to her maternal un-instinctiveness?  Whether born or raised, Kevin’s latent malevolence slowly develops into a dogma of nihilistic violence.  As the fifteen year-old Kevin, played by Ezra Miller with graceful viciousness, tonelessly notes, “there is no point – that’s the point.”
 Eva’s story unfolds in the non-linear, cut-and-paste chaos of the broken mother’s conscious, slowly revealing the cause of her present estrangement.   Scenes flit between a ragged, present-day Eva in a disordered and paint-spattered house and the polished, imposing Eva of the past in a stylish suburban home.   Swinton’s singularly alien presence underscores the film’s unnerving quiet, broken mostly by a similarly disquieting soundtrack featuring Buddy Holly, Washington Phillips and the Beach Boys.  Her performance is formidable: she portrays her half of the incredibly complex love/hate/fear/frustration/forgiveness/redemption familial relationship with its due subtlety and power.  Her co-star, Ezra Miller lends a note of pathos to his largely unsympathetic character with spindly-limbed self-consciousness.   Other than a few heavy-handed moments (Kevin’s somewhat clunky dialogue and the omnipresent red lighting), We Need to Talk About Kevin delicately unravels a modern American horror story, and with nary a drop of blood.