There has been some discussion in the media of late as to whether or not women who choose not to have children (for whatever reason) are selfish. While a silly debate to begin with, a strong argument for the negative is Lynne Ramsay's new feature We Need To Talk About Kevin: anyone, not just women, will abandon the idea of parenthood after seeing this film.
Based on the award-winning bestselling book by Lionel Shriver, Ramsay's film unfolds as a prism of memories belonging to Eva (Tilda Swinton), who is struggling to come to terms with the horrific crime her adolescent son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), has committed. But was it Eva's lack of maternal instinct that lead to Kevin's actions, or, as Eva's memories suggest, was Kevin born the bad seed? Nurture versus nature?
The young Kevin wilfully ignores, taunts and defies his mother which leaves her exasperated and exhausted. Husband and father Franklin (John C. Reilly, underused and arguably miscast), who escapes to the office every day, doesn't see Kevin as Eva does; when daddy walks in the door, it's all smiles.
The behaviour of Kevin in his various stages, may be one of the film's less convincing elements, bordering on caricature, but as I said, these are the memories of a grieving mother and wife, they are not objective flashbacks. Memory is not a reliable tool, and Eva is possibly looking for a way to explain what happened or punishing herself for missing signs that were there all along.
Tilda Swinton is, of course, amazing in the film which she also executive produced. She doesn't do vanity - Swinton appears gaunt and haggard throughout - nor does she make Eva the hero of the piece. We get the sense that Eva never really envisioned herself as a mother and nurturing doesn't come naturally to her; Kevin is a riddle she simply can't decipher. And with the arrival of a daughter, it would seem Eva's easy relationship with her confirms her suspicions about Kevin: it's not me, it's him.
Of course nothing in We Need To Talk About Kevin is meant to be that simplistic. Never having read Shriver's book, I can only go by what Ramsay - making just her third feature, and her first in nine years - has presented. As a film it's an impressionistic piece about memory and guilt, the fractured narrative of which serves to heighten your discomfort as you wait for the truth of what Kevin did to be fully revealed.
And when it's revealed to be something other than a gun which is involved, it's all the more chilling. Kevin, played as an adolescent by Ezra Miller with insouciant menace, may have been born an arsehole but for mine, he chose to be a monster. And make no mistake: if you choose to see We Need To Talk About Kevin, like Eva, you'll be haunted.