Lynne Ramsay, who directed Samantha Morton so well in Morvern Callar, has made the brooding teaser We Need to Talk About Kevin. In it, hardly anyone talks smartly about Kevin. We first see his mom (Tilda Swinton) wallowing with bodies in a mosh pit of blood (animal, we presume). She is full of agonized remorse, and the story is her guilt trip in a town that hates her. Son Kevin became a murderous sociopath. The film looks back after the slaughter with a slow drip of morbid significance.
This British production is set in a prototypical American town, rotting into the American Dream deranged. Poor Swinton, gaunt as a rake, looks about halfway to Donatello’s emaciated Mary Magdalene. Her dorky husband is one of John C. Reilly’s walking, talking hamburgers. Three boys play Kevin. The youngest is ripe for Seed of Chucky. The oldest (Ezra Miller) is a cold, vile teen with a demented sneer.
Songs stretch “suspense,” and Seamus McGarvey’s photography makes fine use of lighting, colors, and billowing curtains. When philistines say that enigmatic art films are pretentious bores, they are not invariably wrong. This one creeps toward horror with artful dodges and then has the vapid good taste to not show the carnage. Is the depiction of archery meant to provide classical resonance, an ancestral echo of Agincourt or Troy? A fine but sterile question. All the urgent, practical, and clinical questions are lost in script fog.
Reviewed in the movie capsules: Project X and Silent House.