Alone and exhausted from years of torment, Eva Khatchadourian is trying to live something that resembles a life. With the town against her, she tries to stay hidden and atone for the pain caused by her and her son. As a young woman, she met the love of her life while exploring her love for traveling. When a new child entered her life, everything seemed to change. Kevin had a temperament that seemed to negatively affect her but not be a problem around her husband, Franklin. As he grows into a child, Kevin actively acts out through testing the boundaries of his mother, eventually culminating in an act of violence that seems to only temporarily stun his inappropriate behavior. As Kevin gets older, his vicious acts seem to get worse toward Eva and even threaten the safety and emotional state of his younger sister, Celia. Eventually, a series of actions by Kevin changed the lives of his family and everyone in their town in a way that would scar them forever.
Starring: Tilda Swinton (Eva Khatchadourian), John C. Reilly (Franklin), Ezra Miller (Kevin, teeanger), Jasper Newell (Kevin, 6-8 years old), Rock Duer (Kevin, toddler), Ashley Gerasimovich (Celia), Siobhan Fallon (Wanda), Alex Manette (Colin)
Clearly the focal character of the film, Tilda Swinton brings a interestingly sadness and frustration to her character’s attempt to first deal with raising a difficult son to eventually trying to live with his dreadful actions. The performances by both Ezra Miller and Jasper Newell were rather intense, particularly in the way they were able to maintain their sinister natures and switch so suddenly in the presence of John C. Reilly’s character.
Lynne Ramsey’s exploration of the disturbed mind looks a little less into the reasons why a child can act so carelessly but rather what the effects can be on the parents. With Franklin, Kevin sees an opportunity to create a sense of jealousy in his mother. He periodically takes advantage of a moment of weakness in her guard to give her a false sense of hope. Eva feels an obligation to continue pushing through his wall of pain, partially because of her desire to succeed for her own sanity and her inability to communicate the reality of the situation with her husband. Since his toddler years were so stressful, she was already worn down by the time he was old enough to start to consciously act out. Eventually, she feels completely helpless because she knows what she is capable of and finds that it is not enough to get him to break free of his cycle of violence and hatred.
While the flashbacks and scenes eventually give a full picture of Eva’s plight, the most intense of the times occurs during Kevin’s teenage years leading up to the incident. In his youth, he was vicious and hurtful, but his manipulative nature only went so far. As a teenage, he was able to become much more maniacal in his manipulation of the family and his mother’s emotions. I one scene, he describes how his hatred is only an offshoot of her personality, but this comment seems to be more a manipulation to make her feel more guilt than a recognition that his troubling childhood bred the pain and hurtfulness inside of her. As he prepares for the big day, his manipulates his little sister on multiple occasions to force her to feel a sense of the pain he believes he feels, and in turn bring more pain to his mother. In the end, Eva tries to understand why Kevin caused the incident but fails to learn anything substantial, which could be extremely frustrating for the viewer.
While a little jumpy in the presentation in the back and forth between the present and the past, this film presents an intriguing view into the life of a mother plagued by a seemingly possessed child.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5