Lawmakers have made headlines recently by trying to force ultrasounds on women seeking an abortion. An effective response might be to force said lawmakers to watch We Need to Talk About Kevin. Likely, they'll pass on childbirth entirely and go buy a parakeet.
A haunted Tilda Swinton plays Eva. She's bombarded with bloody fantasies and scarlet-dyed memories (the shacklike house where she lives was bombarded by vandals with red paint)—but the real bloody nightmare is her son, Kevin, who in his midteens goes on a killing rampage at his school in a plot that also takes out father and sister.
In flashbacks, we see that Eva was once a renowned travel writer whose career is utterly wrecked by marrying a husband (John C. Reilly), breeding and moving to the suburbs. A Halloween sequence makes you wish that the holiday really were that scary. And Jasper Newell and Rocky Duer (who play the young and younger Kevin) give crafty performances.
Still, it's so polemic—so much so, that it's clear there's something funny about this evil story. But Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (of the cryptic Morvern Callar) chases that humor out like an angel with a flaming sword, though she does miss a spot: a scene of Swinton, sighing with relief as a New York jackhammer drowns out the wailing of her hell-brat.
Swinton's chiseled fierceness makes this extreme tale breathe as much as it possibly can. You can see that such a hard-on-herself woman would blame herself for having a monster child, but you'd have to have a mother's self-persecuting heart to believe, as some viewers have, that Eva's uppitiness actually caused Kevin's evil—from his early refusal to take to toilet training to his final rampage.
'We Need to Talk About Kevin' opens Friday, March 9, at Summerfield Cinemas. 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa. 707.522.0719.