Indie Gems: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Nature vs Nurture

It's hard for a movie based on a beloved book to transition well on screen. I try to go into every film like this knowing it won't be as extensive as the book. That being said, WNTTAK is a very well made film, and while it kept all the crucial points of the story, it could've benefited from a few more explanations.

This review will contain minor spoilers from the book/movie.

Eva Khatchadorian (Tilda Swinton) didn't really want a baby, but her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) did. Their first child is Kevin. (played by Rock Duer as a toddler, Jasper Newell as a child, and Ezra Miller, most effectively as a teenager) Kevin is not your average child. His hate for his mother is apparent. He screams endlessly as a baby, he refuses to talk as a toddler, he wears diapers until he's 6 years old. He swears at Eva, talks back, says horrible things and is very distant. As a child, he's portrayed as nothing but a brat. It's only when Kevin is a teen do we really see how cunning, manipulative, and smart he actually is. Eventually Kevin becomes responsible for a tragedy at his school, the film is about how Evan copes with that. Most towns people hold her accountable for Kevin's actions, but if she really to blame?

The book is written in a series of letters that Eva writes to her separated husband, Franklin. The movies is done in a series of flashbacks instead. We get many montages of Kevin's life accompanied by music. It adds to the story, unlike say, Tree of Life who's montages took away from it. The one thing that annoyed me in the novel continued to annoy me in the film: How everyone treated Eva. I find it a but unrealistic that people would be so cruel to her after what has happened. Then I think about how the world is filled with some pretty simple-minded people that always need someone to blame, and I can understand it better. I think the movie could've benefited by the following 3 explanations:

1) Nature vs Nurture. In the book, it's very clear that Eva is questioning whether or not to blame herself. The movie almost portrays her as just a bad mother and Kevin being born evil, but the book went more in depth. I think a simple scene of Eva telling Franklin she's not ready for children would've helped it. Also when she has their second child, Ceila, showing a quick montage of how much more Celia bonded with Eva would've been the right thing to do.

2) Kevin's prison conversations. We get a few shots of them during visitation, and a quick, yet powerful snippet of an interview Kevin did on TV. However there were a few crucial conversations that I feel should've been put into the film. How Kevin actually felt about his father. Book Kevin bashes his father for being so oblivious and tells the interviewer to "lay off his mother." Kevin's rant in the film about  viewers turning the channel if he "only got an A in geometry" had a lot more too it in the book. He criticized other school shootings in the process and felt he was superior. This really gave us a look at who Kevin really was, but the screenwriters probably left it out for sympathy's sake. Also, the final scene between Kevin and Eva would've benefited from being EXACTLY like the book. The word for word conversation and actions were much more powerful.

3) The massacre should've been better explained. One thing that annoys me on end is reading internet threads were people complain about the set up. "Oh, he just had a bow and arrow, they should've charged him, they shouldve ran." ALL of this was explained in the book. It showed how calculating he was. For the record, he steals a school letterhead and sends a copy to each student (that he carefully picked out for certain reasons) and one teacher, telling them they won an award. He locks every door in the gym with his bike locks, and sneaks the final lock while his victims are conversing. He goes up to a higher platform in the gym so that he is above everybody, and shoots them down with a cross bow. Cross bows are quicker to load, so he would've have to waste time drawing arrows, and they shoot fast giving the victims barely enough time to panic. I don't think they necessarily had to SHOW the massacre in the movie, but they could've at least given him a cross bow and mentioned the letter head.

Those complaints aside, WNTTAK is a great film. Swinton gives a wonderful performance as Eva, who really is one of the best written characters I've ever read. Ezra Miller really was the only actor who got Kevin in my opinion. Sure the other two were young, but they were just making faces. Miller legitimately got under my skin. Tell me that scene of Eva walking in on Kevin masturbating was not the creepiest thing ever.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I used to think I knew, but now I'm not so sure." - Kevin (Ezra Miller)


  1. I have not read the book so this is a very informative review for me, I did not have problems with things that many people wonder about, I thought it was truly great and unforgettable film and Swinton delivered amazing work here.

  2. Wow, on a lot of reviews of this movie the book isn't mentioned. Thank you so much for giving that vital information about the letterhead and how he calculated the school massacre. That is very interesting because I haven't seen the movie yet. I only just ordered it on Blockbuster @Home. So I am anxious to see everything. A lot of my Dish co-workers recommend this movie as well.

  3. I have been on the fence about whether to read this book or watch the movie, because as a mom, I'm afraid I might find it too disturbing. :-) I know it will make me cry. But everything I've heard about Tilda Swinton's performance is enough to made me want to see the film -- I think I'll read the book first.

    Just a thought, though obviously I haven't read or seen this. If this situation were in real life, I would not be surprised if Kevin's mother were treated cruelly. Sadly, people have a tendency to place blame and withhold compassion. In a weird way, I think blaming and judging makes them feel "safe" -- "I'm a good person, so this could NEVER happen to me or my family." And of course being compassionate means being open to absorbing a bit of someone else's pain. It seems that many people are unable or unwilling to do that. Plus blaming mothers for everything that goes wrong with their offspring has a long, illustrious history, going back to Freud.

    Thanks for the excellent, thoughtful review.

  4. Thanks for comparing it to the book. I also saw people complaining about the massacre, but I don't get why they would do it. It's pretty obvious that there is a believable explanation in the book. And thanks for explaining.

    Swinton and Miller were amazing. This film impressed me a lot.


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