20.10.2011 - Tilda Swinton is a
really good actress. Like really, scary good. I didn't fully
realize it until I watched We Need to Talk About Kevin.(The sad irony of working
long hours in the film festival world means some great films in
regular release pass you by. I missed Swinton's Academy
Award-winning role in 2007's Michael Clayton, gave up my
seat at a sold-out festival screening of 2008's Julia in
Chicago, and haven't yet caught up with I Am Love, the
Italian tragedy that earned Swinton breathless raves in 2009. I had
loved all of Swinton's supporting turns that I had seen, but to me,
her searing front-and-center performance in the powerful
Kevin is a revelation.)
I'm an American. I was in my last year of high school when the
Columbine High School massacre in Colorado shook the country (and
beyond, I would imagine - being a teenager in America implies a
sort of insulation from what's going on in the rest of the world).
Nine years later, there was a similar assault at my college alma
mater in rural Illinois. In both cases, I remember thinking more
about the survivors than the victims. I remember wondering, when
they showed on TV the awkward class photos of those troubled,
confused, disturbed kids who had flipped into mass murderers - who
are their mothers, and what are they going through? What
is the interaction between the mothers of the slain and the mothers
of the killers? They are probably neighbors in these small towns.
They probably pass each other in the grocery store.
So it was through this personal lens that I watched We Need to
Talk About Kevin, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay's adaptation
of Lionel Shriver's best-selling novel. The film, albeit through
fiction, answers my questions from all those years ago.
From birth, Kevin was pathologically manipulative. He was sunny
and cheerful toward his affable father, Franklin, and bone cold
toward his mother, Eva, so it was impossible for her to convince
her husband that their son had antisocial tendencies that needed to
be addressed. As he grew into a teenager, Kevin's flat affect would
spike only for cruel taunts, until finally and without obvious
warning he went on a rampage at his high school.
But Kevin is not a case study of its title
character, but his mother. Swinton plays Eva, a free spirit who
unwittingly shackled herself into housewifedom when she got married
and had a baby. Her wanderlust never subsided, so days alone with
Kevin in their cavernous suburban McMansion felt like imprisonment.
Swinton - such a visceral performer - suggests Eva may have lacked
that innate mothering gene. She looks awkward holding her baby. She
Could these years of ambivalent mothering have been responsible
for Kevin's abominable acts?
The film is Eva's post-traumatic odyssey toward an answer, and
toward rebuilding her life. It lives entirely in the mind of a
woman reeling. Ramsay lays out the story in a scattershot fashion,
zigzagging through the telltale events of Eva's life with Kevin and
her wraithlike wandering through the waking nightmare that is her
present, never letting us out of Eva's head. It's a complex role
that spans nearly two decades and a long gamut of burdensome
emotions, but there's not one frame in which Swinton - whose films
I'll hereupon skip work to catch in the theater - feels
We Need To Talk About Kevin has its final screening at
ADFF on Friday, October 21 at 8:45pm at Marina Mall's VOX
Cinemas.Tilda Swinton will accept the Black Pearl Career Excellence
Award in person at the invitation-only ADFF Feature Awards Ceremony