We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin Information

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a 2011 British-American drama film that incorporates elements of the horror and thriller genres, directed by Lynne Ramsay and adapted from Lionel Shriver's novel of the same name. A long process of development and financing began in 2005, with filming commencing in April 2010.

Tilda Swinton stars as the mother of Kevin, struggling to come to terms with her son and the murders he has committed. The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was released in the United Kingdom on 21 October 2011.


Adolescent Kevin Katchadourian (Ezra Miller) is in prison after committing a massacre at his high school. His mother, Eva (Swinton), a once-successful travel writer, lives alone in a run-down house and works in a mall travel agency in a town near the prison where she visits Kevin. She looks back at her memories of him growing up as she tries to cope with the anger and hostility of her neighbours, who know her to be Kevin's mother. Her memories are shown in flashbacks.

Throughout his life Kevin has been detached and difficult. Eva had problems with identifying as a mother and has trouble bonding with Kevin, which affects his behavior; as a baby he cries incessantly, and as a child he resists toilet training, rebuffs Eva's clumsy attempts at affection, and shows no interest in anything. While he is still small, Eva's frustration with his intractability drives her to throw Kevin against the wall, breaking his arm. They return from the hospital with Kevin's arm in a cast, and when his father, Franklin (John C. Reilly), asks how he broke his arm, Kevin says he fell off the changing table onto his toy truck. Later, there is a scene where Eva is driving Kevin around, and he wants to go home, but she has to go to the store. He begins rubbing the scar on his arm menacingly, blackmailing her about telling Franklin about what really happened. When Eva tries to talk to her husband about her increasing concern about Kevin's problems, he dismisses her concerns, and makes excuses for Kevin's behavior. Their second child, Celia, is lively and cheerful, but her birth does nothing to lessen the tension within the family.

Kevin finally shows interest in something when Franklin gives him a bow and arrow set and teaches him archery; Kevin soon becomes an excellent marksman. When Celia's pet is killed and she is blinded in one eye by an incident with a caustic cleaning fluid, Eva is convinced Kevin is responsible, while Franklin insists these events were accidents and that their son is blameless. This pattern of suspicion on Eva's part, and excuses on Franklin's ruins their marriage and intensifies Eva's fear of her son, as she sees growing evidence of Kevin's pleasure in hurting others. This eventually leads up to the massacre, where Kevin murders multiple students with his bow and arrow set, before locking himself in the gymnasium. It isn't until Eva arrives at the school from work, like the rest of the concerned adults, that Kevin walks out, turning himself over and revealing himself to be the killer, his mother being forced to witness. Eva finally arrives home, only to find the house empty and dark. To her horror, she discovers in the backyard the arrow-penetrated corpses of Franklin and Celia, whom Kevin murdered before his massacre at the school.

The film concludes on the second anniversary of the massacre, when Eva visits Kevin in prison. Kevin is anxious because his transfer to an adult prison is imminent. Eva asks him why he committed the murders and he responds that he thought he used to know, but is no longer sure. Eva gives Kevin a hug and says her good-byes while he is taken away.


  • Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian
  • John C. Reilly as Franklin Plaskett
  • Ezra Miller as Kevin Khatchadourian
    • Jasper Newell as six- to eight-year-old Kevin
    • Rocky Duer as infant Kevin
  • Ashley Gerasimovich as Celia Khatchadourian
  • Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Wanda
  • Alex Manette as Colin


In 2005 BBC Films acquired the rights to adapt the book as a film. Executive producers Paula Jalfon and Christine Langan took it through the development stage, and were joined by executive producer Steven Soderbergh.

Lynne Ramsay, who became available after her involvement in the film adaptation of The Lovely Bones came to an end, signed on to direct, and was working on a script with In the Bedroom writer Robert Festinger by 2006. Shriver was offered a consultative role in the production process but declined, stating she had "had it up to [her] eyeballs with that book", though she did express concern for how the film would capture Eva's role as the unreliable narrator. Production had not begun by 2007, though BBC Films renewed the adaptation rights early in the year. In an interview with The Herald in September 2007, Shriver stated that she had not been in contact with Ramsay about the film for over two years. Ramsay's spokesman told the newspaper that a new script draft was being prepared and, at the time the interview was published, had not been submitted to the producers. Michael Clayton producer Jennifer Fox joined the production team in 2008; the film was expected to begin shooting that year. The script appeared on the 2008 Brit List, a film-industry-compiled list of the best unproduced screenplays in British film. Ramsay's partner Rory Stewart Kinnear also contributed to the final shooting script.

Christine Langan told the London Evening Standard in February 2010 that the long delay in production had been caused by BBC Films having difficulty funding the high budget; Ramsay rewrote the script so the film could be made for a lower cost. The UK Film Council awarded 18,510 to the production from its development fund in the same month. Financial backing was also provided by Footprint Investments LLP, Caemhan Partnership LLP and Lipsync Productions, and production is in association with Artina Films and Forward Films.

Filming commenced on 19 April 2010 on location in Stamford, Connecticut, and concluded on 28 May 2010. A key filming location was J.M. Wright Technical High School in Stamford. Jonny Greenwood of the band Radiohead composed the film's score.


In October 2009, IFC Films picked up the rights to international sales, and made pre-sales at the American Film Market. Artificial Eye distributed the film in the UK from 21 October 2011. Oscilloscope Laboratories distributed the film theatrically in North America in the winter of 2011.

The film premiered In Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it was met with praise from film critics.

We Need to Talk About Kevin was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 29, 2012.

Box office

As of 19 April 2012, We Need to Talk About Kevin has grossed $1,656,241 in North America, along with $4,300,250 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $5,956,491.


We Need to Talk About Kevin received generally positive reviews. The film currently has a 76% "Certified Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes; its consensus says "We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful blend of drama and horror, with fantastic performances across the board (Tilda Swinton especially, delivering one of her very best)." On Metacritic, the film received a 68 out of 100 based on "generally favorable reviews."

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars and said, "As a portrait of a deteriorating state of mind, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful film."

British film critic Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live named We Need to Talk About Kevin as the Best Film of 2011.

Jake Martin, a Jesuit priest and movie critic, wrote in his review in Busted Halo that the film is not "yet another installment in the pantheon of post-modern films intent upon assaulting the human desire to give meaning to the world." Instead, he says, "We Need to Talk About Kevin in fact needs to be talked about, as what it is attempting to do by marrying the darkest, most nihilistic components of contemporary cinema with a redemptive message is groundbreaking."

Richard Brody, in The New Yorker, wrote that it "masquerades as a psychological puzzle but is essentially a horror film full of decorous sensationalism." He opined that the film exploited but did not explore the fascination that "bad seed" children exert.

Tilda Swinton was nominated for a number of acting awards, including a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA for Best Actress in a leading role. Her acting also received praise by film critic David Thomson in a review of the film for The New Republic.

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