Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin vs Beautiful Boy

One of the most raved films coming out of Cannes, We Need to Talk About Kevin is an adaptation of Lionel Shriver's award-winning novel about a mother's struggle to understand or like the cold and difficult son that her husband adores, and who turns out to be a psychopath that kills nine other kids with a crossbow.  The novel is made up of letters written by Eva to her husband Franklin and chronicles her relationship with their son Kevin, from his childhood to her visits with him in a juvenile detention facility.

Not a light family excursion, then.  

Director Lynne Ramsay (making a comeback after 2002's Morvern Callar)'s experimental film is being called fearless, emotionally complex & a triumph of sound design and cinematography, while her script (co-written with Rory Kinnear) is being hailed for transforming the novel's letter structure into an non-linear collage of a family's disintegration.

Tilda Swinton & John C Reilly (in a welcome return to drama) star as Kevin's parents, while Ezra Miller plays the handsome, troubled Kevin. Swinton is the film's complex emotional core, and reportedly the restrained force that lifts the film's morbid subject matter. With adjectives like 'haunting', 'blistering', 'magnetic' being thrown around in praise of the always brilliant Swinton, big kudos to Kirsten Dunst for beating her to the Best Actress prize at Cannes.

Clip from We Need to Talk About Kevin:

Swinton's performance in this clip alone is stirring (but, gosh, I can't stop thinking of David Bowie when she has short hair), and that baby carriage is straight out of Rosemary's Baby.

Another clip (you may notice the colour red...) :

Tense, creepy and beautifully shot.

Also this year, Shawn Ku's Beatiful Boy tells a similar story, with Michael Sheen & Maria Bello as parents unsure how to grieve the death of their son when he takes his own life after going on a killing spree at his college.


Quite a sappy trailer, actually.

Gus Van Sant's visceral 2003 Palme D'Or winner, Elephant, remains the definitive examination of a school shootout in my book, but by focusing on the aftermath for the parents, both We Need to Talk About Kevin and Beautiful Boy pose a very different perspective. Kevin certainly seems the more creatively challenging of the two, while Beautiful Boy seems more like a melodramatic vehicle for its two stars.