We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

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Released 28-Mar-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 112:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lynne Ramsay
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Tilda Swinton
John C. Reilly
Ezra Miller
Jasper Newell
Rock Duer
Ashley Gerasimovich
Case ?
RPI ? Music Jonny Greenwood


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   We Need to Talk about Kevin is billed as a psychological thriller but it could just as easily be seen as a contemporary horror story. Not a horror story in the sense of haunted houses, hordes of rampaging zombies or face eating aliens. Instead, the horror in Kevin strikes at the deepest fear of all parents-have we failed in raising our children?

When we first meet Eva Katchadourian (Tilda Swinton) she is luxuriating orgiastically in a sea of red. Her joy is palpable though she is covered from head to toe in tomatoes. As the scene continues she becomes more and more swallowed up by the redness which leads us into the modern day. Eva is a destroyed woman. This film, by British filmmaker Lynne Ramsay tells the story, in a fractured arthouse fashion, of how she came to be this shell of a woman.

The Kevin of the title is her son. He is difficult from birth. He screams and cries so much that Eva has to stand near roadworks just to drown out the sound, to bring peace to her mind. He is diffident and disassociated to the point of autism. Hardworking husband Franklin (John C Reilly) can't see what all the fuss is about. When he's with Kevin The boy is a charmer. Therein lies part of the horror.

Like the genuine horror movies featuring demonic children the pintsized terror exposes his dark side to one parent whereas the rest of the world sees him as a saint. Despite her efforts Eva cannot get a break with Kevin and those moments when he is genuinely affectionate are simply part of his greater plan.

Kevin is played by a variety of kids at various ages. Ezra Miller plays him as a teenager and delivers a chilling performance as a smiling sociopath from the modern age. Tilda Swinton is an actress who is prepared to go deeper into her characters and expose more of her soul than many others. She is in almost every frame of this film as the mother who is, at terms, exasperated, humiliated and eventually gutted. This was one of the performances of 2011 which, like that of Michael Fassbender in Shame, was overlooked for the major awards. John C Reilly doesn't have the largest of parts but nevertheless carries off the role of the father who believes that his wife is reacting improperly to their gorgeous son.

The narrative unfolds in such a way that, although we know that Kevin has done something very bad, the realisation is still shocking and disturbing. Eva lives in the permanent state of trying to search her mind to see if she was at fault.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is based on the bestseller by Lionel Shriver. It is a dark and disturbing film. It perhaps resembles Black Swan in its depiction of mental deterioration. While it lacks that films' suffocating atmosphere it makes up for in its general evocation of dread. Every room and every moment is pregnant with the feeling that something bad is going to happen.

The question of whether or not Kevin is just plain evil is answered for us. He is. However like Black Swan the tricky thing about this film is working out whether we can trust what we see. Eva in the modern scenes is barely existing, her house daubed with graffiti, strangers prepared to slap her in the street. Apparently the book, which I haven't read, presents Eva as an unreliable narrator. It is harder to do that in a film without losing any semblance of stable ground for the viewer. Though the performance of Swinton makes it worth the price of admission I still have trouble with the depiction of Kevin as a demon child as it derails the tough questions. Could she have stopped him, done more, raised him better? Nope, he was destined to create havoc.

It is not an easy watch but is nevertheless a powerful, quality film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   We Need To Talk About Kevin was shot on 35mm film and projected in the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This DVD has preserved that ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey has created a highly stylised but nevertheless good-looking film. Each of the eras in Kevin's life are given a slightly different look. Throughout the film colours are used symbolically, particularly the colour red which appears in various guises-tomatoes, jam, graffiti on the this house. The colours are stable without bleeding.

This is a sharp transfer which oozes quality on all levels. Even those scenes in the modern day, stripped of colour and deliberately drab, are well shot.

The level of detail is superb allowing us to hone in on Swinton's face to try to follow her thinking. The flesh tones are accurate.

There are English subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The prime soundtrack for the film is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track running at 448 Kb/s.

There is also a descriptive audio Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 192 Kb/S.

Dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout.

The merits of the surround sound are really to be found in the sound design, where noises and musical inserts are placed to create an effect on the viewer. There are some ambient sounds which are also given over to the surrounds.

The sub-woofer is used to good effect from time to time.

The music for the film comes in two guises.

The score itself is by Johnny Greenwood. To music lovers Greenwood is the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist from Radiohead. Film lovers will perhaps best known him through his score for There Will Be Blood. Interestingly, Greenwood recently performed with his idol, classical composer Krzyszof Penderecki. The influence of Penderecki can be seen in the score for Blood and also this film. Tiny passages of sound provide a disturbing undercurrent to the visuals.

Aside from the score Ramsay uses a series of songs from the 50s and 60s including country and western, Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys to disturbing effect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are no extras. What a disappointment.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  The Blu-ray version of the film has extras but only a few. The DVD version does not. Strange. If any movie could have done with a commentary track it is this one.

Summary

   As parents we can't help thinking that we've done something wrong whenever Little Johnny fails a maths test or doesn't get into the sporting team. Kevin is the natural psychological progression of those fears, where obsession and guilt destroy the mind and soul. It is a tough watch.

The DVD is of very good quality both in sound and vision terms.

Unfortunately no extras for us!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, April 13, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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