Why Everyone Needs to See We Need to Talk About Kevin
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 22:04
It is a rare occasion to be a high school student now and not let the fear of a hypothetical mass school shooting cross your mind. Those of us who remember the Columbine tragedy may never again feel fully safe in an enclosed institution. Seeing the new film We Need to Talk About Kevin will only exacerbate that fear.
The raw emotional pull of the film makes viewers question their ideas of motherhood, sociopaths in general and the way in which society contributes to mass school shootings.
As young children, we watched on television while terrified students fled their high school after two teenage boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher. There have not been many films since then that have directly focused on the subject of mass school shootings. Some smaller, indie films addressed this gruesome topic, such as Elephant, Home Room and The Killer Within, but no successful mainstream films had been made before We Need To Talk About Kevin.
Tilda Swinton, who is an expert in playing grief – her aristocratic features and stark bone structure express unbearable sadness like no other – stars as Eva, a mother who is unable to fit into the mold of motherhood. Her unwanted pregnancy and rushed, loveless marriage play a role in the way that her son Kevin’s mental illness eventually manifests in a mass school shooting
Throughout the majority of the film, Eva is shown dealing with her son’s unsettling behavior. As a child, he is unresponsive to affection and refuses to speak or learn how to use the toilet until he is five years old. This leads Eva, in a fit of maternal desperation, to ask a pediatrician whether her son might have autism.
The film then cuts to Eva trying to play ball with her son. He is totally unresponsive, providing further evidence of his deeply rooted hatred of his mother. The undoubtedly proverbial relationship between the young, strung-out mother and her son is expressed as a painful battle between a mother who clearly never wanted her child and a son who realizes this truth.
As Kevin grows older, he torments Eva in more and more extreme and violent ways, while being coddled by his emotionally stunted and thoroughly oblivious father. As time progresses, Eva begins to realize the extent of her son’s deeply rooted illness.
Kevin kills his little sister’s pet hamster and intentionally leaves drain cleaner out to harm her. Despite all of this, Eva’s husband refuses to discuss his son’s apparent mental illness or to respond to his wife’s concerns. What makes the film so ironic is the fact that no one ever specifically discusses Kevin. Eva is alone with her fears and eventually, before her son goes to school to murder many of his classmates, Eva’s husband asks for a divorce.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is film that everyone needs to see. At times it can be overdone, but as one of the only successful mainstream films about a school shooting, it gives an intriguing and accurate portrayal of the ramifications when a family ignores their child’s mental illness.