Based on author Lionel Shriver’s Orange Prize for fiction winner, We Need to Talk About Kevin is an unrelenting and disturbing portrayal of a mother’s search for answers.

Tilda Swinton’s hearbreaking performance is absolutely convincing as Kevin’s distraught and detached mother Eva, ostracized and victimised by the local community following the horrific acts committed by her son.

In the 2005 novel the story unfolded through Eva’s letters to her absent husband Franklin. Scottish writer and director Lynne Ramsey moves away from the original text to tell the story using flashbacks as Eva tries to rebuild her life.

Ramsey’s direction is disorientating, claustrophobic and uncomfortable viewing, keeping the audience continually on edge. Through Eva’s memories we relive her past, sounds are amplified and insignificant details are magnified as she deals with grief, guilt and questions about Kevin until the films final morbid twist is revealed.

From the moment of Kevin’s conception, Eva searches her past for the important moments that may have conspired towards and concluded in Kevin’s shocking deadly enterprise. Although Kevin was born into a comfortable and loving environment he and Eva never discovered a mother-son bond, leaving Eva contemplating the question, was Kevin born broken or did she do something wrong?

Jasper Newell is meticulously cast as the younger Kevin. His extraordinary performance is Damien-esque in its malevolence and creepily sinister. Eva is out-manoeuvred by her own son as he manipulates his father (John C. Reilly), while continuing to undermine her.

Ezra Miller is chillingly convincing as teenager Kevin, playing the arrogant and charismatic young psychopath with real malice. The talented and watchable Miller compels as he hides his deep-rooted anger under a veil of superiority, showing no humility or remorse even with his younger and trusting sister Celia. Kevin only exhibits some real humanity during the final shattering confrontation with Eva.

Funded by the now defunct UK Film Council, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a devastatingly stark, insular and emotive tale of marriage, children and parenthood.

Ramsey should be applauded for her adaption of a story dealing with retrospective choices and how we’re often powerless to find the answers we need.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Out now at FACT

Vinny Lawrenson-Woods