WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is pretty funny, which is not the most complimentary thing to say about a film that takes itself incredibly seriously and never stops congratulating itself for its profundity. The non-linear narrative unfolds like this: Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a tortured soul. Once a successful travel writer, she now works a shitty filing job at a shitty little travel agency before going home to her empty house, where she falls asleep on a couch next to a pharmacy's worth of pills. Sometimes Eva wakes up to find her house has been vandalized with gallons of blood-red paint; sometimes she walks down the street and a stranger punches her in the face.
The reason: Eva is the mother of Kevin (Ezra Miller), an eeeevil teenager who one day took his archery kit to school and started shooting arrows into people. Kevin's anachronistic choice of weaponry is about the only thing separating him from one of the Columbine shooters.
No, wait: The Columbine shooters were actual, breathing, fucked-up kids, whereas Kevin is a preposterously sinister cartoon who lurks around pouting, ominously wielding a bow and arrow at every opportunity, and torturing his little sister, killing small animals, and lasciviously sneering at Eva when she catches him masturbating. In the film's many flashbacks—in which Eva and Kevin live with the rest of their family, father Franklin (John C. Reilly) and daughter Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich)—we also see Kevin as a preposterously sinister toddler (Rock Duer) and a preposterously sinister first grader (Jasper Newell), who, at various points, glares menacingly, mocks his mother, intentionally shits his pants, and does his best impression of the pint-sized antichrist from The Omen. At no point does Kevin get along with his mother, at no point does Eva get along with her son, and at no point do either of them feel like real people: Kevin is simply a bad seed, Eva is simply sad. And every 30 seconds, we're reminded of what Kevin will do, and how Eva's life will be destroyed, and how many children will die. The film's increasingly unbelievable plot beats are punctuated with a metronome-like thud of ham-fisted foreshadowing. It might've worked as a dark comedy.
But We Need to Talk About Kevin considers itself capital-D italicized Drama, and Lynne Ramsay's over-stylized direction, laden with half-assed symbolism (Eva spends a lot of time washing red off of her hands), is pretentious and draggy. Every scene is a naked plea to make the audience feel; stacked one after another, the result is an insulting drone. We Need to Talk About Kevin thinks you're an easy-to-manipulate sucker, and it thinks it is very, very sad, and it thinks it has a lot to say. It says nothing, except that sometimes, I guess, you end up with an Omen kid. Bad luck, that.