- Book Format
- Movie Overall
- Movie Acting
Ages ago I read the book We Need to Talk About Kevin and this is what I had to say about it:
This book sucked hardcore for the first few chapters and I had to force myself through it. It was long winded and the author appears to go out of her way to use run-on sentences and difficult language. I hate giving up on a book though, and I tend to try to push through them in case there is something better to be found.
I’m glad I did with this one, because it got very very good. Once I got used to the writing style and the content got more interesting, it turned out to be an extremely thought provoking novel which makes you question everything you’ve ever heard or thought about being a parent and having children. It makes you wonder especially about the nature vs nurture topic, which I’m still not sure about myself.
It’s almost hard to believe it’s fiction, to be honest. It makes me wonder if these are the things the mothers of the kids from Columbine and other school shootings thought and experienced.
The book is written through a series of letters from Eva, to her seemingly estranged husband, about their son Kevin. Eva’s relationship with Kevin was strained from birth and as he grew older she was convinced that there was something wrong with him, always suspecting there was an evil side to him. His behavior with her was drastically different than with her husband, who appears to be blissfully unaware of this side of him, partially because Kevin puts on a much happier face with him but also because he refuses to accept that his family is anything other than the norm. This leads to Eva feeling quite alone in her efforts to win Kevin’s affection and deal with his abusive and sometimes cruel behavior.
I found it to be quite a difficult read for a number of reasons, both because of how the book was written but also the content. As someone who has been trying to have children for a very long time, and had far too much time to question if we want to have one and why, this was an absolutely frightening read. The thought of having a child and not having a connection with him / her and having them react to me in the way Kevin reacts to his mother (or doesn’t react) scared me. It also made me worry about the decisions I would make as a mother, how they would affect any future child and what the hell I’d ever do if I had a child like this.
When I said the book was thought provoking, that was putting it mildly. It’s a book that you read and then it sticks with you… I have found myself mulling it over in my head while in bed, on the tram, while shopping and a lot of other times. I’ve gone back and forth in my head about the nature vs nuture topic and how it applies in this movie. Granted, this is a work of fiction and without speaking to the parents of kids who have done such horrible things, there’s no way to know if this is what it’s really like. From what I gather, most parents are taken quite by surprise when their child does something so horrific, which wasn’t really the case with Eva in the book.
I’ve questioned again and again whether Kevin was born that way or if there was something in the way Eva acted towards him and if her depression and frustration with a difficult, constantly crying baby caused him to somehow detach from her, thus breaking the mother / child relationship and starting off what turned out to be quite evil behavior.
What has brought this all back up recently was seeing the movie. It’s been years since I read the book, which is usually a good thing when it comes time to watch a movie that is based on one. Otherwise I spend the entire time picking the movie apart and complaining about what is and isn’t represented from the book. I was able to just watch this and enjoy it without remembering or recognizing what was missing, or what was added.
My experience when watching the movie was quite the same as when I read the book. There were parts that were boring but it was intriguing at the same time. It probably helped that I had already read the book and knew what the outcome would be. I did feel a heightened sense of anticipation and dread through the movie, which I know was the desired affect.
The children in the film were brilliant and more than once I wondered how they got a child that was so young to give such looks and portray such emotion. All three of the boys that played Kevin did a remarkable job in creating a massive unease within me, the kind of feeling that makes me understand why some species eat their young.
The entire cast was chosen perfectly really. I don’t think anyone could play the tortured, anguished Eva the way Tilda Swinton did. She WAS Eva in this film, and what I liked most was that she managed to create that perfect balance that we found in the book, where you wanted to empathize and sympathize with her but at the same time there was something about her that made you uneasy as well. I’m not sure a lot of actresses could bring that out in the character the way she did. It takes a lot of acting skill to make you pity a character at the same time as you sort of hate her.
Her husband (Franklin), played by John C. Reilly, was also done very well. His stubborn desire to have the perfect little nuclear family causes him to ignore and brush off all of Eva’s attempts to get him to understand what she is going through. Reilly is the perfect person to play a sort of happy go lucky, father who is happy to ignore what is going on around him.
Both the book and the movie bring about so many questions. What causes Kevin to be the way he is? Is it Eva’s inability to deal with him as a difficult baby that severed the bond between mother and son? Was there ever one there to begin with? Is Kevin just inherently evil or was that something that was somehow created by his environment?
** Spoilers Ahead **
Another big question I have is in regards to how he feels about his parents. Through the book and the movie I had the impression that he liked his father more than his mother, that there was more respect for him. If that were true, why did he kill Franklin and not Eva? If all of his anger and hatred appeared to be aimed towards his mother, why did he not kill her? Was it because he wanted her to live miserable and alone, feeling responsible for all the death and destruction Kevin left in his path?
I wonder if it wasn’t quite the opposite. If in some strange way Kevin didn’t have more respect for his mother because she saw through him, and she constantly challenged him. Did he not have less respect for his father and almost see him as an idiot who could be easily fooled by putting on a smile and pretending to be an adoring son? Did he kill the father and sister because he had no use for them?
So many questions! That is what makes a good book for me, something that leaves me thinking afterwards. There are things I didn’t like about the book, and the movie, but none of it took away from the story and the endless questions that it left me with. Even though I will probably never read it again, or watch the movie, I still think this is an incredible story.