Friday, February 10, 2012


Atleast The Omen and The Exorcist had metaphysical explanations for their rather misbehaved child-protagonists. We Need to Talk About Kevin reminds me strangely of Notes on a Scandal(the book, not the film)a similar paranoia resulting from an anticipated loss of reputation (Kevin features as many shots of onlookers as The Knack… And How to Get It), an insolent adolescent social-heretic at the center of it all, an uptight righteous (an unreliable) narrator who always ‘tried’ but in vain, chronology-hopping to illustrate how a feeling of ‘sinister doom pervaded a past that forewarned us of this nasty present’ and the narrator’s gross failure to detach herself completely from the responsibility of a crisis.

The film’s protagonist, the woman whose joyous, beautiful, messy youth (much like in Rosemary’s Baby, another film about maternal paranoia, the child is a result of casual sex) degrades into an hideous, formal, bloody boring adulthood. In marking this transition, the casting of John C. Reilly (the eternal louse, I bet the C. stands for Chaplin) is perfect – because he somehow is an icon for the situation she finds herself in. As with all other horror films, Kevin is a film about appearances – Eva’s (Swinton) hairstyle is used as an era-marker: long, flowy hair is distant past, jet-black comb-over is recent past, and shortish, shoulder-length hair is present. At more levels than one, the film is not about the reduction of the gradual ruin of Kevin, who infact, grows into a beautiful young man, but of Eva (Swilton), who turns into a wreck. And when a wreck narrates the film, there is only so much you should believe (Psycho final scene, Memento, Yaadein). Whether her narration of Kevin’s behaviour is like it is because she secretly blames his birth for the mess her life is, is left open to some detective-work. I suppose that is the point of not explaining at all the behavior of Kevin, because it is not him that we have to figure out, it is her.

At any rate, I am not sure what to make of We Need to Talk about Kevin, yet; it works as a sensorial experience – Swinton’s talent is indubitable, but one of the central reasons she works as the rapidly ageing woman with menopausal-paranoia is because of how her hands look: they resemble networks of hastily-deposited concrete clothed with scaly, thin, beautiful imperfect skin – skeletal but human. Ramsay gives close-ups of human physiognomy a sinister air through long-lensed extreme close-ups: amputated from the rest of the body, these parts begin to look like the quieter inmates in a prison: you never know what they are upto.

Below, some Swinton-hands:

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) / Lynne Ramsay

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