We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lynne Ramsay

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lynne Ramsay

There are three Louis C.K. jokes about how parenting is the hardest job in the world, it is the only job you cannot quit and yet parents are never allowed to say it is hard in front of people. That idea taken to an extreme is the premise of We Need To Talk About Kevin.

What is that extreme? It is the worst child imaginable. The kid Kevin (played by Ezra Miller) in this movie is an evil cunt (excuse my French, but if you see this movie, you will understand) whose sole purpose is to hurt people without purpose. Why does he hurt people? He doesn’t even know, he just enjoys it with zero empathy. I hope Ezra Miller can get a date after the film’s release. Yes, it’s that kind of performance.

It’s funny how stories can take you places and make you feel things that would never be okay in real life. I remember watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona and remember rooting for Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johannson and Penelope Cruz’s odd threesome relationship because it made them all happy. I laughed, going “Damn you, Woody Allen for making me feel like this.” That’s what makes watching movies fun. And here’s the thing with this film: I wanted Kevin to die. I was thinking up horrible ways for him to die throughout the entire movie. The worst scenario I was wishing was Kevin’s mother Eva (played by Tilda Swinton) to curb stomp him and get it over with. We Need To Talk About Kevin took me to an unique place, an uncomfortable place sure, but somewhere I have never quite been – wanting a little child to die so her mom can be free of him.

Speaking of the mother, the story completely hangs on Tilda Swinton’s performance. Completely. There are scenes where the viewer is fully omitted from what she’s looking at, but we’re only allowed to interpret what it is through her facial reactions. She constantly plays two opposing emotions against each other. Her character Eva feels remorse for bringing this little motherfucker into existence but out of her duty as a mother she must stick by him. The ultimate tragedy is that Kevin came out of her womb. As a mother she is symbiotically connected to him (and the film underplays that as part of it’s unnerving tension) and therefore responsible for his actions, even though she completely probably wishes she never had him to begin with.

The soundscape in this film is very noteworthy. It represents Eva’s emotional state from her first person perspective. Much of the score is these dark tones, which helps physicalize experience Eva’s inner unexplainable turmoil. Throughout the film Kevin has a habit of doing little things with his hands that are unnerving: he’s mashing breakfast cereal into pieces, snapping Crayons in half, throwing jam/paint all over the place, rolling bread rolls into little balls as if he’s constantly picking at his mother’s patience. Contrastingly, Eva hands are constantly cleaning, wiping, scrapping, as if she’s trying to wipe the imprint of her son away. All these little sounds helps you experience what it’s like being right up close to Kevin and how anarchic and annoying he is. We experience her personal first-person version of hell and it’s an unnerving experience.

There’s a running motif with the colour red, it follows with Eva in her younger pre-Kevin years and eventually the color red appears along with Kevin. It’s meaning develops into different things as the story progresses along. It physicalized the symbiotic relationship between the mother and the son. It represented other things too, but I won’t go into it any further. Yes, spot the colour red!

Lynne Ramsay understands faces and how it can evoke a feeling like a landscape (Seriously, Google Ezra Miller’s face or look at his face above). I like this trait in a director. I can’t explain it.

This was very well done. There’s a lot of craft to telling a great story. I can’t recommend it more! Damn, I’m going to have to come up with a Top Ten List for 2011.

P.S. A reason to watch the end credits. This movie has a “Computer Virus Maker”.

The Lady by Luc Besson

The Lady by Luc Besson movie poster

My first memories of Michelle Yeoh date back to Police Story 3: Supercop. To me, she will always be the Mainland Chinese undercover agent who drove a motorcycle up a ramp and landed onto a speeding train. And now that has completely been changed in my head, or perhaps another new image of Michelle Yeoh has now been spawned in my head.

Mark my words: this is the definitive Michelle Yeoh performance. Don’t get me wrong, she still plays a badass, but a totally different kind of badass. Yeoh physicalizes Aung San Suu Kyi, she has lost the weight and embodies her gentle grace and is believable as a mother. Yes, I bought this onscreen family. That’s something noteworthy.

There is an art to crying on film. It must be done with precision (so the audience stays rooting for the actor), a certain beauty (you are doing it on camera after all) and grace to it (so that it’s watchable). The Lady contains some of the best crying on film I have seen for a while. I was reminded of how David Mamet’s thoughts against Stanislavski’s school of method acting because the emotion drawn from the actor should come from the scene itself, not a side experience from the actor. I written that off as I doubted if that is even possible for an actor to do (and also because David Mamet wears a beret). The film have proven me wrong. I watched Aung San Suu Kyi cry from being away from her family, not Michelle Yeoh cry from a personal experience.

In screenwriting, they teach that it’s important to make your main character likable, so that the viewer can invest and root for their success. That alone can enhance (i.e. Rocky) and diminish (i.e. The Green Hornet) one’s experience of a story. The portrayal of Aung San Suu Kyi (played by Michelle Yeoh, if it’s not obvious to you already) in The Lady is universally likeable and that alone had me on the edge of my seat.  I don’t recall ever rooting for two people to be together (On that level, this makes for a great date movie) more than Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband Michael Aris (played by David Thewlis). Fuck, the stakes are high: a woman has to choose between helping her country or being with her family. There’s a heroine, she’s in love but can’t be with her lover,  she has supporters, there’s a villian, he has henchmen and set out to destroy her cause. The story structure is practically that of a superhero movie, but I digress. Like in Senna, the situation seems so dramatic I couldn’t believe that this all really happened. The film titters between working as a documentary and a dramatic fiction movie and it becomes an immersive experience.

I quite liked that touch with Michael Aris’ smoking habit. It’s how the character deals with his stress. Often smoking is used as a character trait in movies, and they really take that to it’s end in this one.

Lastly, the U2 song tonally doesn’t fit with the aftertaste of the film in the end credits sequence. I know U2 is a major supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom, but that particular song tonally doesn’t belong there, period. I would have preferred the score.

Welcome back, Luc Besson! Please continue to direct movies.