Tilda Swinton stars as the mother of Kevin, struggling to come to terms with her son and the horrors he has committed. The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was released in the United Kingdom on 21 October 2011.
Swinton was nominated for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild, and the BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role. It was given positive reviews by both critics and audiences alike.
Teenager Kevin Khatchadourian is in prison after committing a massacre at his high school. His mother, Eva, once a successful travel writer, lives alone in a rundown house and works in a travel agency in a town near the prison, where she visits Kevin. She looks back at her memories of him growing up as she tries to cope with the anger and hostility of her neighbors, who know she is Kevin's mother.
Kevin is detached and difficult even from childhood. Eva has problems with identifying as a mother and has trouble bonding with Kevin, who appears to loathe her and behaves in whatever way he thinks will torment her the most. As a baby, he cries incessantly, but only around her; as a child, he resists toilet training, rebuffs Eva's clumsy attempts at affection, and shows no interest in anything. He behaves like a happy, loving son when his father is watching, and reverts to sullenness only when he is alone with his mother. While he is still small, Eva's frustration with his intractability drives her to throw Kevin against the wall, breaking his arm. They return from the hospital with Kevin's arm in a cast. When his father, Franklin, asks how he broke his arm, Kevin covers for his mother with a lie, using this incident later to subtly blackmail her into giving in to demands, like skipping her errands to take him straight home after school.
When Eva tries to talk to her husband about her increasing concern about Kevin's problems, he dismisses her concerns and makes excuses for Kevin's behavior; he has never seen Kevin's dark side and so he doesn't think anything is wrong with Kevin. The only real affection and interest Kevin shows towards Eva occurs when he is confined to his bed with a fever and she reads him a book about Robin Hood. When reading the part of the story where Robin competes in Prince John's archery contest, Kevin snuggles with Eva and spurns Franklin when he interrupts the story. Franklin gives him a bow and arrow set and teaches him archery, and Kevin soon becomes an excellent marksman. He continues to practice and graduate to bigger bows as he gets older.
Eva and Franklin have a second child, Celia, who is lively and cheerful. However, her birth does nothing to lessen the tension within the family, as Kevin immediately shows disdain and jealousy towards her. A few years later, Celia's pet guinea pig is killed and she is blinded in one eye by an incident with a caustic cleaning fluid. Eva is convinced Kevin is responsible, whereas Franklin insists these events were accidents and that their son is blameless. This pattern of suspicion on Eva's part, combined with Franklin's unflagging defense of Kevin, ruins their marriage, and Franklin approaches Eva with the subject of a future divorce. Eva comes to fear her son, as she sees growing evidence of Kevin's pleasure in hurting others.
This eventually leads to the massacre, when Kevin locks the gymnasium doors with bike locks and murders multiple students with his bow and arrow. As Eva arrives at the school from work, along with the other concerned adults, the police cut through one of the bike locks, and Eva knows Kevin is responsible. Kevin voluntarily walks out, turning himself over, and revealing himself to be the killer. Eva finally arrives home, only to find the house empty and dark. In the backyard she discovers the arrow-penetrated corpses of Franklin and Celia, whom Kevin had killed before the massacre.
On the second anniversary of the massacre, Eva visits Kevin in prison. Kevin is anxious because his transfer to an adult prison is about to happen. Eva asks him why he committed the murders. Displaying rare vulnerability, Kevin responds that he used to think he knew, but is no longer sure. Eva gives Kevin a hug and says her good-byes while he is taken away.Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian
John C. Reilly as Franklin Plaskett
Ezra Miller as Kevin Khatchadourian
Jasper Newell as young Kevin
Rocky Duer as infant Kevin
Ashley Gerasimovich as Celia Khatchadourian
Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Wanda
Alex Manette as Colin
In 2005 BBC Films acquired the rights to adapt the book as a film. Executive producers Paula Jalfon and Christine Langan took it through the development stage, and were joined by executive producer Steven Soderbergh.
Lynne Ramsay, who became available after her involvement in the film adaptation of The Lovely Bones came to an end, signed on to direct, and was working on a script with In the Bedroom writer Robert Festinger by 2006. Shriver was offered a consultative role in the production process but declined, stating she had "had it up to [her] eyeballs with that book," though she did express concern for how the film would capture Eva's role as the unreliable narrator. Production had not begun by 2007, though BBC Films renewed the adaptation rights early in the year. In an interview with The Herald in September 2007, Shriver stated that she had not been in contact with Ramsay about the film for over two years. Ramsay's spokesperson told the newspaper that a new script draft was being prepared and, at the time the interview was published, had not been submitted to the producers. Michael Clayton producer Jennifer Fox joined the production team in 2008; the film was expected to begin shooting that year. The script appeared on the 2008 Brit List, a film-industry-compiled list of the best unproduced screenplays in British film. Ramsay's partner Rory Stewart Kinnear also contributed to the final shooting script.
Christine Langan told the London Evening Standard in February 2010 that the long delay in production had been caused by BBC Films having difficulty funding the high budget; Ramsay rewrote the script so the film could be made for a lower cost. The UK Film Council awarded £18,510 to the production from its development fund in the same month. Financial backing was also provided by Footprint Investments LLP, Caemhan Partnership LLP and Lipsync Productions, and production is in association with Artina Films and Forward Films.
Filming commenced on 19 April 2010 on location in Stamford, Connecticut, and concluded on 28 May 2010. A key filming location was J.M. Wright Technical High School in Stamford. Jonny Greenwood of the band Radiohead composed the film's score.
In October 2009, IFC Films picked up the rights to international sales, and made pre-sales at the American Film Market. Artificial Eye distributed the film in the UK from 21 October 2011. Oscilloscope Laboratories distributed the film theatrically in North America in the winter of 2011.
The film premiered In Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it was met with praise from film critics.
We Need to Talk About Kevin opened in a limited release in North America in a single theater and grossed $24,587, ranking 53rd at the box office. The film ended up earning $1,738,692 in America, and $5,754,934 internationally, for a total of $7,493,626.
We Need to Talk About Kevin was released on Blu-ray and DVD on 29 May 2012.
We Need to Talk About Kevin received positive reviews. The film currently has a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes; its consensus says "We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful blend of drama and horror, with fantastic performances across the board (Tilda Swinton especially, delivering one of her very best)." On Metacritic, the film received a 68 out of 100 based on "generally favorable reviews."
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars and said, "As a portrait of a deteriorating state of mind, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful film."
British film critic Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live named We Need to Talk About Kevin as the Best Film of 2011.
Richard Brody, in The New Yorker, wrote that it "masquerades as a psychological puzzle but is essentially a horror film full of decorous sensationalism." He opined that the film exploited but did not explore the fascination that "bad seed" children exert.
Jake Martin, a Jesuit priest and movie critic, wrote in his review in Busted Halo that the film is not "yet another installment in the pantheon of post-modern films intent upon assaulting the human desire to give meaning to the world." Instead, he says, "We Need to Talk About Kevin in fact needs to be talked about, as what it is attempting to do by marrying the darkest, most nihilistic components of contemporary cinema with a redemptive message is groundbreaking."
Tilda Swinton was nominated for a number of acting awards, including a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA for Best Actress in a leading role. Her acting also received praise by film critic David Thomson in a review of the film for The New Republic.