Here we have a movie that is trying to get behind why kids (or people in general) go on a rampage. Most prominently in schools. It touches a subject matter that, from my point of view, will never be fully dissectible. There are just far too many variables playing into the question we are always asking… ‘why’. Did this movie shed some light onto the issue or does it leave us knowing exactly as much as we did before? Lets see.
The story is told from the point of view of a worn out woman. Tilda Swinton brilliantly portraits that lady, Eva, with her very own style of acting. She manages it to really show the viewer how down that character really is. That poor woman is pretty much going through hell. But why? Now the movie is told with flashbacks. At the beginning it’s a little confusing to follow, where the movie actually is at a given point. In the past or in the present? It’s well enough done to follow though. It just requires you to really focus on the film. We follow Eva in trying to get herself back into life. Trying to socialize again. She gets looks from everyone she meets on the streets. That’s something the movie does good. Certain points overdo that a little though. Nonetheless it’s Tilda Swinton’s great work that makes you feel awkward along with the character she plays. The viewer soon understands that something must have happened in the past.
As soon as the flashbacks kick in, we get to see the earlier Eva. She falls in love with Franklin (John C. Reilly) and they decide to form a relationship. Soon she gets pregnant and Kevin is born. Right there you can see that Eva does not feel too comfortable. Nonetheless she accepts her natural duties as a mother and takes care of the kid. Just like any other mother would do. She does not do anything different or wrong. The baby though acts weird. It cannot stop crying and drives Eva crazy. Several flashbacks later we see Eva trying to play with a now young boy. The kid still acts weird, and no matter what Eva does, she always gets ignored or (to use a trendier word) dissed. Every now and then Kevin throws her a bone and does what she demands. Making her feel like she finally got through to him. The next moment he’s back to evil again.
That procedure we see throughout the movie. Eva trying to be a good mother. She is doing nothing wrong. Every other child would love it to have her as a mother. Not Kevin though. On the other hand he seems to really love his father. And Franklin cannot understand why Eva has so many problems. At some point in the movie Kevin is even trying to play out his two parents against each other. And right there you can see that the kid isn’t stupid. He is a highly intelligent boy that really knows what he’s doing. Does he know why he is doing it? I would say no.
While these flashback bring us closer to what happened to Eva, we watch her struggling in the present. she’s having a hard time and actually no one to talk to. Aside of that she doesn’t seem to be a very talky/open person anyway. Which makes me wonder about the movie’s title. Because they actually NEVER seriously talk about Kevin. Yes both parents know there is an issue. Eva more than Franklin. But Eva never gets her mouth and heart open. There were moments in the movie where I screamed at her “now start talking!!!”. She swallows everything. All the indignity and ignorance from her son and her husband. And that is what makes this movie so incredibly hard to watch. I personally know people that, for the sake of their lifes, wouldn’t talk about something personal. So Eva is not a stupid character. She’s just a character like any other, with her own qualities. And talking is not one of her qualities. She also never gets loud. And sometimes as a parent you have to get loud. Otherwise your kid will not understand what’s right and wrong.
After seeing Kevin growing up to be a teenager, and the closer we come to the end of the film, we can see where it’s headed. Kevin decides to go on a rampage on his school. And that’s what Eva is trying to deal with. The aftermath of what’s happened. While Eva certainly is not the strongest mother ever, I personally could not see her do anything wrong with how she tried to raise Kevin. The only real flaw I saw simply was that she never got out of herself and talked to someone. I personally am not very open and talky person too and can see why Eva can’t too. But still, if something seems wrong with my kid… I’ll go out and try to find out what’s going on. I, most certainly, would talk to my partner about it.
At the end of the movie Eva is visiting Kevin in jail. She’s afraid of him, and we can see that throughout the movie. But she still cannot/refuses to let him go. She feels guilty for what he’s done. She still wants to understand him. And for a split second, in Kevin’s eyes, we get a glimpse of understanding from his side. A short thought process of “maybe I did do something really bad”. That is at least what I saw.
Man this movie was a hard sitting. Not because it’s a bad movie. It tries to ask valid questions. It’s not able to answer all of them. which is good because it leaves room for interpretation and discussion. Tilda Swinton delivers a fantastic job. The kids who played Kevin were great too. There is no way you will like Kevin. He’s played so wonderfully evil that it sometimes feels unreal. Children can be very cruel.
On a technical level there is not much to complain. Eva’s depiction/look after the incident uses some great make-up work, to make her look like she’s going through hell. The music choices at some parts of the film felt a little odd. As if they tried to cheer up the dark happenings of the film a bit. It adds a nice contrast though.
Ultimately there are some questions left. Do some people get born evil? Are there some people that are just plain evil, without any chance to ever fully psychologically understand why? Even these people don’t understand why they behave and act the way they do. They just do without thinking about consequences. It’s a hard topic, especially for a movie.
Nonetheless I think the movie mostly succeeds. It makes you think about the subject matter. It gives you a hint of how the family of a rampage shooting person probably looks. Without any distortion by the media or some psychologist who thinks he can explain the world for you. Does the movie explain why these mentally ill people do what they do? No. The movie doesn’t even try to speculate. It just shows reality. And some things just cannot be explained.