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We Need to Talk About Kevin
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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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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?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.