Lynne Ramsay’s most recent film, We Need to Talk About Kevin—which had its Twin Cities premiere at the Walker Art Center on February 10—begins its theatrical run at Landmark’s Lagoon Theater today. An impressionistic, boldly-colored nightmare about tempestuous mother-son dynamics, We Need to Talk About Kevin further exemplifies the hard-edged yet lyrical beauty of Ramsay’s earlier films, such as Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar (which also played at the Walker as part of our “Lynne Ramsay: Rough and Tumble” retrospective). Adapted from Lionel Shriver’s controversial epistolary novel, Ramsay’s version pulsates with overwhelming performances by Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller (as a mother and son whose combative relationship leads to devastating consequences) and a dreamlike, memory-laden structure that audaciously melds the past and the present.
Euan Kerr of Minnesota Public Radio recently spoke with Lynne Ramsay about the emotionally-charged themes that drew her to the project, specifically the possibility that the myth regarding an innate bond between a mother and her child could be revealed as fallacy. “It’s kind of a fantasy about your deepest fears as a parent,” Ramsay said. “What if you don’t feel that instant bond? What if you don’t feel that instant connection you are meant to feel? And what if the child perceives that?” In this way, We Need to Talk About Kevin is closer to an existential statement on the breakdown of familial relations than a demon-child horror story à la The Omen.
Ramsay also discussed the difficulties in adapting Shriver’s novel, which takes the form of a series of letters written between the beleaguered mother, Eva, and her estranged husband. The challenge for Ramsay was in finding a way to manifest the psychological intensity of the novel in a distinctly visual way: “What if I put myself completely in Eva’s position: almost take the form of the book and smash it up but in the way keep the same structure. It’s very much she’s looking back and trying to figure this out one way or the other. You are never quite sure whether what she is seeing is reliable or not.”
Check out the MPR interview to see what Ramsay had to say about the Academy Awards and her reticence in supplying audiences with neat, tidy answers—a decision that makes We Need to Talk About Kevin one of the most unique and provocative movies currently playing in the Twin Cities.