We Need to Talk About Kevin Movie Poster Image

We Need to Talk About Kevin



Bleak film about disturbed teen is difficult to watch.
  • 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.

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/Streaming 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

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Teen, 16 years old Written byB-KMastah April 23, 2013

Masterful and haunting.

This is officially one of — if not the most — disturbing films I've ever seen. I've always had a fear of children but this utilizes it to the max, and extremely effectively at that. It's very minimalist and that, combined with the masterful acting, creates an almost unbearable sense of dread. Watching Kevin's psychological issues unfold and reach an ultimate peak is darkly thrilling while being actually very sad. The characters are very minimal but are completely full-fledged; that's a testament to the directing and acting. Kevin at times is an anti-hero due to his clearly sick state of mind, yet he's the pinnacle of devious. His mother is a sad, desperate woman trying to save a child, and his father is an ironically optimistic man. It's a film that will leave you feeling cold about life, and that's of the highest praise to the filmmaking. 9.5/10, incredible, two thumbs up, far above average, etc.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byraka73 July 18, 2012

We Need To Talk About This Movie

I convinced my dad to let me watch this movie and we both loved it. It's a disturbing, fairly accurate portrayal of a young psychopath and how a school shooting changes his mother's life. *SPOILERS AHEAD* The movie is about Kevin's mother reflecting on her son's life after Kevin killed several of his classmates. The movie has a scene where she and Kevin's father are having unprotected sex, but no nudity is shown. When Kevin is about five, his mother explains where babies come from, as she is pregnant again, and he blatantly says, "Is this about f***ing?" I've heard a lot of swearing, but I was surprised to hear that out of a five year old's mouth! When Kevin is older his mother catches him masturbating in the bathroom and continues for a few seconds after he is found, looking his mother straight in the eyes. When his mother takes a CD from Kevin's room and puts it in her computer, it becomes infected with a virus and pictures of topless women briefly appear on the screen, along with a blue screen and a creepy clown icon, before the computer crashes. After Kevin's arrest a man who works with Kevin's mother tries to get her to have sex with him. When she declines him, he tells her no one else is going to want her because everyone knows that she's Kevin's mom. Kevin wore diapers until he was about four, and after he went in his clean diaper after his mother changed it, she pushed him against the wall, breaking his arm. Kevin's father buys him a bow and arrow when he's a boy (guns aren't used in this movie) and the bow and arrow is what he uses in the shooting. Several bloody bodies are seen, including the dead bodies of his father and sister. He puts his sister's guinea pig down the garbage disposal and purposefully hits her in the eye with an arrow, leading to her having to have the eye removed. There were several uses of the b word and f word, and one use of the c word. Two women come up to Kevin's mother on the street, and one of the, says, "I hope you burn in hell, b****." Kevin's mother takes him out to dinner one night and he he mentions something about, "Hooking up with some c**t" at school. After Kevin's arrest his mother is seen getting drunk every night and takes pills together, and passes out shortly after. The biggest thing about this movie is how disturbing it is. Kevin's mother is not a good one; when he's about 3 she says to him, "Mommy used to be happy before you were born" and is just not a good mother to Kevin, so he basically sets out to make her life a living hell. When his mother makes a special office for herself Kevin splatters paint all over the room. This kid is definitely a psychopath; he was born without empathy, and his upbringing helped shape his behavior. After the cast from his broken arm gets taken off, his mother wants to go to the store while they're driving in the car, but Kevin taps his once-broken arm, basically implying, "If you don't do what I say I'll tell dad about what really happened." His father babies him and his mother pays hardly any attention to him. Kevin's parents recognize that there's something wrong with their child but they don't do anything about it. When Kevin's mother finds her husband and daughter dead, you come to the realization that Kevin kept her alive so she has to deal with all the hate that'll come from the incident. Kevin's mother is hated and tormented by the whole town while Kevin sits smugly in jail. It's a dark but interesting movie that I think is for mature audiences who can grasp how twisted this movie actually is and appreciate that darkness.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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