We Need to Talk About Kevin

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
We Need to Talk About Kevin Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Bleak film about disturbed teen is difficult to watch.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's little, if anything, that's positive in this bleak film about a family in which a deeply disturbed teen drives everyone around him to despair. Nobody is happy, nobody comes off well, and there's certainly not a happy ending.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kevin is an unrelentingly hostile child and an even nastier teen who makes every scene in this film overflow with foreboding and gloom. His mother struggles to be supportive and positive but is often overwhelmed and lets her frustration show in the face of his complete contempt, which is obvious from almost the day he's born.

Violence

The film has more foreboding than actual on-screen violence, yet the atmosphere is so creepy and gloomy that the anticipation might be worse than in other films where viewers actually get to see comparable acts. A woman slaps another woman out of rage, and a frustrated mother slaps a disobedient toddler. She later throws the child across the room, breaking his arm. A young girl loses an eye in an off-screen accident, and a beloved pet guinea pig is dispatched in an unpleasant manner. (Again, it's off-screen but the oppressive atmosphere is still disturbing.) The disturbed child taunts his mother using harsh language and seems to lack all empathy. The film's culmination is a horrific school attack in which bloody teens are shown being wheeled out on stretchers.

Sex

A few scenes of a couple having simulated sex, with brief partial nudity. A teenage boy is shown from the chest up as he masturbates.

Language

Frequent use of strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," and more.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman drinks plenty of red wine. Later, after a terrible tragedy, she increases her intake significantly, and there are plenty of corks and empty bottles littering her home, along with prescription pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We Need to Talk About Kevin is a bleak drama that centers on a disturbed teen who commits a heinous act. The film's focus is on his mother and how she deals with the aftermath; it also portrays the tense atmosphere in their home as her son grows from a toddler to a high schooler, getting progressively more hostile. There's some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and a few brief sex scenes (plus simulated masturbation), as well as several moments of intense violence, some of which involve a child and others of which include some blood. Most of the actual violence is off-screen, but these scenes are still quite intense, and the movie has a consistently creepy, gloomy atmosphere.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 1, 6, and 12-year-old Written byWall-e GO-4 M-O... April 11, 2019

Decent aim, to be fair

Could do with more pumped up kicks, or maybe some don't stop me now. K/D is a little low, could do with a documentary about Columbine and it's affects...
Adult Written byToyabg May 22, 2020

Crazy

This was a horrible movie plot. The kid was crazy from a young age. I’d like to blame the mom.However she was twisted also. He needed help and she knew . Her b... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 28, 2020

Terrifying but tremendous

Very disturbing and scary. It is very intense and puts your hair on end all the time. It has good acting in it, but is very confusing in the first 10 or so minu... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byIAmNeverSatisfied April 10, 2020

Not graphic

This film starts off very slowly.
There isn’t much actual violence shown and hardly any nudity (one scene but kevin is just shirtless). Probably not one for th... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on a novel by Lionel Shriver, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN explores what life is like for a mother, Eva Katchadourian (Tilda Swinton), whose son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), has just maimed and killed his classmates at a local high school. The world she lives in now is a shell, with co-workers, neighbors, and strangers vandalizing her home and hissing hateful words at her at unexpected moments. But it is Kevin who most preoccupies her. As he sits in jail, Eva sifts through his childhood and teenage years, trying to make sense of what has happened.

Is it any good?

There's no doubt that Tilda Swinton turns in a visceral, milestone performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin. As the mother of a teen who must live with her child's horrendous decision, she's nothing short of breathtaking. Viewers see her fall to pieces over the years as she struggles to understand his animosity toward the world and her own feelings toward him.
 

Still, the movie is too claustrophobic, rendering it hard to watch, amazing acting or no. Portent and despair envelop the film from the first few frames -- a teeming mass of revelers soaked in blood-red tomato sauce. The movie is steeped in premonition and dread, understandable considering the subject matter. But it's relentless -- the heartbeat that underscores certain scenes, the dreary lighting, the persistent red tint to it all. Enough.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays Kevin. Why do you think he was the way he was? Was he disturbed from the start? Does that make it any easier to accept that he'd do the things he did?

  • Is there anything positive to be found in this movie in terms of messages or role models? If not, why do you think the filmmakers chose to tell this story?

  • What is the impact of violence in We Need to Talk About Kevin? Is it more or less disturbing than what you'd see in a horror movie? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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