We Need to Talk About Kevin

  • Review Date: December 9, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Bleak film about disturbed teen is difficult to watch.
  • Review Date: December 9, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 112 minutes





What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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.


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

Not applicable
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.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:December 9, 2011
DVD release date:May 29, 2012
Cast:Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton
Director:Lynne Ramsay
Studio:Oscilloscope Pictures
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and intense violence

This review of We Need to Talk About Kevin was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 5 and 8 year old Written byFilmFather January 6, 2012

Prepare to be disturbed, especially if you're a parent

Each scenario in We Need To Talk About Kevin is more unsettling and disturbing than the previous one. The interactions between Eva and Kevin are uncomfortable, pitiful, or downright heartbreaking, and any occasional glimmer of hope for these two to form a true mother-son bond is quickly dashed by the next scene. ***** This is one of the most gripping, unnerving horror/thrillers in recent history. It’s extremely powerful, yet very difficult to watch. That goes double if you’re a parent. ***** The film is rated R for “disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality, and language.” There are several scenes of the aftermath of Kevin’s attack at his high school, with bloody bodies carried out on stretchers. Several people, including a young child, are shown dead by Kevin’s arrows. A few sexual situations are shown in shadows or silhouette, except for one fully lit scene where Eva catches Kevin in a compromising position in the bathroom. In terms of alcohol and drugs, Eva consumes a lot of wine and pills. Ironically, teenagers about Kevin's age and older would be the appropriate audience. ***** Read my full review at: filmfather [dot] blogspot [dot] com.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bydvdkid13 January 8, 2012

Haunting and terrifying

This movie is disturbing and haunting. This is the story of a mother and how she deals with the violence her son inflicts on others. Tilda Swinton and the rest of the cast play their roles perfectly and it is almost as if you can feel the emotion (or lack thereof with Kevin). Parents especially will most likely cringe and be extremely bothered by certain elements of Kevin's character and actions. Certainly not for kids. Despite that, in my opinion, this is a movie worth seeing. The sheer amount of visual mood and expressions that convey this sense of uneasiness is an incredible cinematic achievement. Although this movie has flown under the radar, this movie will keep you thinking long afterwards. Even through the uneasy, unnerving scenes, this movie is gripping and, as a result, worth seeing.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written bywonder dove June 9, 2012

Too slow...

I love these types of films, but I found this one way too slow moving for my taste. Nothing actually happens until the 2nd half of the movie and watching Kevin grow up was nothing special, he just seemed like an ignorant kid who needed some discipline. I was hoping for something actually more disturbing, according to some reviews. Maybe I need to watch it again, but from what I've seen it's not really something that held my attention. Just a heads up for people who may be wanting more thrill or thinking it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller...but it's worth a look anyway.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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