'We Need to Talk About Kevin' Review: Nature vs. Nurture Debate Yields Harrowing Reality

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" considers the dark question of where monsters come from. The movie is arctic in its emotional tone, with a carefully reined-in pace; and while it nods lightly in the direction of the old nature-versus-nurture debate, it settles firmly on the side of nature, demonstrating that sometimes evil just is.

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The monster at issue is a boy named Kevin, the son of Eva Khatchdourian (Tilda Swinton) and her prosperous husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly). Prior to their marriage, Eva was a well-known travel writer, and she turns out to be ill-suited for stay-at-home domesticity. As a baby, Kevin cries and screams without letup, subsiding only when Franklin takes the child into his arms. Eva is exasperated, and when Franklin decides to move the little family out of the city in which they live and into a big house in a bland suburb, her heart sinks.

By the time he’s six, Kevin (played by the precociously unsettling Jasper Newell) has become a figure of brooding hostility, slyly destructive and impervious to his mother’s attempts to bond with him (although he’s sweet and winning with Franklin). Moving into his teens—and now played to scary perfection by Ezra Miller—the boy is revealed as a pure sociopath, a malevolent presence with shifting serpent eyes under a thatch of midnight-black hair. Appalled by her nightmare child, and frustrated by Franklin’s refusal to acknowledge his bent nature (they need to talk about Kevin, but they never really do), Eva crumples into a despondent haze of wine and pills.

Read the full review at Reason.com

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