Kevin is a horror film that defines this generation. This film makes the horror real. Forget the mockumentary approach of recent horror films, that style has been overused since The Blair Witch Project and its predecessors (1980's Cannibal Holocaust). This film doesn't need a new technical approach; it simply plants its "monster" a little closer to home.
Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a jaded mother, struggling to hold on to her nurturing instincts as she raises.....let's just say a bad egg. We've all heard of the terrible two's, but Kevin (Ezra Miller) redefines terrible. His behavior progressively begins wearing Eva down, but she can't turn to her husband (John C. Reilly) for guidance, he insists Kevin is just a boy. Kevin smoothly manipulates those around him into believing he's normal, so Eva bears the burden of carrying a quiet reservation about her son until one day his behavior escalates to a point that will leave Eva questioning where she went wrong.
The questions this film leaves us asking are: is evil created or nurtured into existence? Is it biological or singularly inherited? What is "evil"? But more importantly, can "evil" be corrected?
The concept of nature v. nurture is not as deeply explored in this film, like one would imagine, but does, I believe, attempt to answer this question. Kevin clearly displays some form of antisocial personality disorder, which might or might not make his condition genetic, therefore biological. Even so, does this type of disorder constitute as a diagnosis for evil? Also, you have to examine how Eva's actions might have contributed to her son's behavior. As a toddler, she tells him she'd much rather be in Italy than changing his diaper. We begin to see the realtionship between the two develop. She seems to have a great dislike for being a mother and naturally Kevin would have no intentions of bonding with her. I think it's safe to say she saw her son for what he was and therefore all his negative behavior was directly targeted to wound her both mentally and physically. What's important here is to note that through psychological help and therapy, Kevin might have turned out different. But we'll never know.
Much praise has to be given to Miller for portraying his dark character with a disturbing amount of jubilant ease and Jasper Newell who portrayed Kevin age 6-8. It's easy to hate Kevin, but difficult not to admire their performances. However, I must say this was Swinton's film. Kevin was shown to us through her perspective and as he grew up, we saw her grow tired and exhausted of raising him. Eva transformed as much as Kevin did and it was both an amazing and chilling experience to see Swinton take on this role.
Director and screenwriter Lynne Ramsay managed to tell this story, based on the book by Lionel Shriver, with a lush visual style. Her colorful vision is a horribly beautiful sight and when she's not overindulging the authenticity of her image with red, the aesthetics add a meaningful splendor to the eye. I had hoped this film would have been accompanied by an equally aesthetic score, but Johnny Greenwood's score (There Will be Blood) was good when present and Ramsay's choice in music was interesting. Also interesting is how Ramsay managed to tell the story through a fractured fabula, she broke the film into different time sequences, going back and forth between the different periods in Eva's life both before and after becoming a mother.
Whatever your definition of evil is, Ramsay has created a real "monster" with Kevin, which warrants this a true horror film. My warning is to approach this film with caution and on a lighter note: Happy early Mother's Day.