The title of this film doesn’t quite convey the chilling story that unfolds in director Lynne Ramsay’s newest film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which grabs you from the start. It tells the story of a mother plagued by the birth of her son, and the evil that a child is capable of.
In what seems to be an idyllic suburb, the town is shaken to its core when an unfathomable event takes place. What is most impressing in this film is the fragmented storytelling, juxtaposing the seemingly pleasant past to the jarring present. How could a concerned mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton) and loving father, Franklin (John C. Reily) be at such odds about their “perfect” boy?
The film is an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s best selling novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which Lynne Ramsay co-wrote with Rory Stewart Kinnear. “After having a really bad experience with wanting to adapt Lovely Bones, I said. ‘I’m never adapting a screenplay again,’ but my husband read this meaty book in two days and said, ‘Dude, you have to do this!’”
After Ramsay’s husband drew her to this book, she effused, “I read it and thought it was a modern classic, talking about something we normally don’t talk about.” Asking if Ramsay wanted to do an exact translation of the book, she graciously said, “I really respected Lionel and hoped she liked my story telling. The structure of her book is a page turner like a thriller, and I tried to keep that feeling, a magnetic force.” Also adding, “There was a lot of trust of her part, and she was really cool.”
Not only was this film going to be an adaptation, which Ramsay swore she would never try to do again. She was also given some serious limitations on the budget and the a tight shooting schedule. “We had thirty days to shoot the film, which was really tough because we had kids and toddlers. Thirty days is nothing, and there wasn’t a lot of margin for error. I had to have a Plan B and a Plan C,” gasped Ramsay.
The conversation flowed effortlessly into how and why she chose her cast. Ramsay marveled, “Yeah I knew I needed reliable actors with such a tight schedule. Tilda is such a canvas. I dropped her in the middle of that Tomatina scene in Spain and she was down for it. She was so bold and just dove in!” Continuing, “We had two hours, and they did not care that it was Tilda Swinton, ya know! I was smacking people out of the way.” Laughing, “She is awesome in the true sense of the word.”
As far as the males she cast in her film, Ramsay remarked, “I like actors who are a bit quirky, and I loved John C. Reily for the part. He is so warm.” Adding that Ezra Miller who plays Kevin is wise beyond his years, a truly talented young actor.” The actors who played young Kevin were Rock Duer and Jasper Newell who “were also great to work with.”
Ramsay emphasized, “I really wanted Tilda and Ezra to look similar with the dark hair and eyes, seeing a part of you in your kids, and that Mothers can be such martyrs. How much do you take as a mom?”
After seeing this film, it will lead to so many questions that will surely surface from such a penetrating and disturbing subject matter. How much blame should you or can you take as the mother of a seriously damaged child? Where did she go wrong, if at all? This film will make you want to talk about Kevin and leave you with a feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Ramsay lastly added, “Even though this title really stays with people, it wasn’t all serious on the set, we would jam out, and it was a great group. Had to lighten the mood!”