We Need to Talk About Kevin – Written by Lionel Shriver
We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the most inventive, precise, and well written novels I have ever had the pleasure to read… although the context of this story may not be so pleasureful. Lionel Shriver proves to be a magnificent author and one hundred percent deserving of the Orange Prize she received for this novel. We Need to Talk About Kevin chronicles the aftermath of a school massacre which was plotted and carried out by our narrator Eva’s son, Kevin Khatchadourian. In the form of an epistolary, we read letter after letter from Eva to her husband Franklin, all of which are desperate to talk about their childs’ wrongdoing and heeding no response. It is unclear, until the very end of the novel, whether Eva is actually sending out these letters or just using them as a tool to relieve herself of her own detrimental thoughts.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is dense in its 400+ pages. It is hard to articulate everything about this book I would love to talk about but I believe the main focus of this book is how much Eva truly understands her son while, simultaneously, misunderstanding him completely. Eva knows that Kevin is morbid, disturbed, and highly manipulative but she also knows that she will never understand him. This is where Eva and Franklin are at odds and why Eva is so desperate to communicate with her estranged husband; their marriage fell apart at the hands of their evil son.
This novel spans the life of Kevin, from an infant crying incessantly in his crib to a teenager locked away in jail. As a reader, we become addicted to his twisted ways and, as disturbing as some moments in this book may be, there is no way you can stop reading. In this aspect, this is where Shriver shines. The ‘school massacre’ concept is unoriginal, but We Need to Talk About Kevin puts the issue in a new perspective, and the resolution of this novel is that there is no resolution. It is real, honest, and raw. We Need to Talk About Kevin is definitely worth your reading time.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” – Directed by Lynne Ramsay
What an incredible adaptation. As you may have learned through Mookology, it is nearly impossible to identically replicate a novel on screen. Changes must be made, and whether they are big or large in scale are usually left to the screen writer and director. Since Shriver’s novel was an epistolary, I knew the movie would do either one of two things: 1) Have voice overs of Eva writing her letters or 2) abolish the letters completely. I am very happy that they decided to eliminate the letters, which saved it from potential hokey-ness, and instead used pure movement to articulate Eva’s life.
The commendable work of Tilda Swinton is just extraordinary in this film. She is truly captivating, and shows so much with so little to say. The idea to have Eva trying to get rid of the red paint that has vandalized her home was pure genius; throughout the film, which is intertwined with flashbacks to her life with Kevin, she is scrubbing away at the red paint which covers her hands and body. It represents the blood of the victims that Eva feels is on her hands. One of the most pertinent themes of the novel was Eva’s responsibility for what happened with Kevin, even though we realize it was purely out of her control.
Obviously, there is a lot left out of the movie. I felt like a few really evil things were missing, particularly the scene where Kevin is playing with Celia’s glass eye as a token of what he had done, but the film moved along without it. The only thing I felt really just didn’t make sense was the title in association with the film. In the book it is obvious that Eva’s letters represent her needs to talk about what happened but, in the film, this doesn’t come across. There is no one that Eva is communicating with about her feelings on the matter so the title doesn’t seem as related as it should – but I guess that is just me nitpicking.
Ezra Miller is the perfect Kevin, so perfect he almost seems too close to the character. His purely sinister portrayal of Kevin throughout the film is sublime and we truly see a difference in Kevin at the end of the movie, when he confesses his “I don’t know” to his mother. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was very well done for the immense material it had to work with and I truly felt this was a great adaptation of a phenomenal novel.
Mook Rating – ★★★★