Directed by Lynne Ramsay of ‘Ratcatcher’ fame, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is a haunting and meditative exploration of child psychology seen from a mother’s perspective. The story of the psychological thriller revolves around Eva Khatchadourian, who, in the aftermath of her family’s devastating fate, revisits her troubled relationship with her son, Kevin. The film was widely praised by critics due to its brilliant direction, brooding cinematography, and a masterful score by Jonny Greenwood.
Critics also took note of the powerful performances by the cast ensemble, with the obvious highlights of Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller. Apart from the mind-bending story, the film shall be remembered as Ezra Miller’s breakout success. Miller acts with a tinge of menace to portray the titular character on screen. The ending of the movie is damning, to say the least. So naturally, you may seek to know whether the movie lies in the realm of reality. In that case, allow us to divulge what we know.
Is We Need to Talk About Kevin Based on A True Story?
No, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is not based on a true story. To put it simply, a true-crime incident involving a disturbed juvenile doesn’t fuel the narrative of this psychological thriller film. Director Lynne Ramsay has penned the screenplay herself, with some help from her writer-musician ex-husband, Rory Stewart Kinnear. The writer-director based the screenplay on the eponymous 2005 Orange Prize-winning novel by American author Lionel Shriver.
When the author came up with the novel, many thought it to be too dark and menacing to sell well in post 9/11 America. Shriver understandably felt that the consensus after 9/11 was that “Americans would never read or watch anything violent again.” The author took it to 30 different British publishing houses before finding the right one. A small but daring publishing house called Serpent’s Tail put their faith in the story. Devoid of any publicity, the book became a cult classic through word of mouth of the readers. Interestingly, the author stumbled upon the name Kevin Khatchadourian in a telephone directory.
Publishers rejected the novel on many grounds – some thought Kevin to be too monstrous and Eva to be “unattractive” as a wife and a mother. The novel, as well as the cinematic adaptation, are not certainly everyone’s cup of tea, as they comment upon a grave societal taboo – a mother disliking her own son. Apart from that, the story erupts in a visceral school massacre. The massacre is not based on any particular incident but is a generic indictment of school shootings. The country has an uneasy relation with school shootouts, and therefore the novel profoundly moves American readers.
However, the author listened to her heart while publishing the book and went with her intuition. The novel paid off and became a critical success. The film adaptation was seemingly difficult since the book does not naturally lend itself to adaptation. Lynne Ramsay had previously picked up Alice Sebold’s ‘The Lovely Bones’ for a screen adaptation, but the project never came to a realization and went to Peter Jackson instead.
Ramsay is not the kind of person to give up, and she turned to the present novel for her next venture. The epistolary format is not easy to replicate, and the movie creates a jarring effect in its wake. In her own signature style, the director managed to keep the narrative subjective and simple. The author expressed her doubt regarding whether the unreliable narrator’s perspective would be retained in the film, but the director kept note of the psychological nuances.
What Disorder Does Kevin Have?
Kevin comes off as a volatile child, as shown in the movie. Kevin’s mind works differently, and when he suffers, he does so silently. The audience may be asking whether or not Kevin has a mental disorder. Let us take a closer look at Kevin since it seems that we really need to talk about him. Kevin is smart, intelligent, manipulative, and acts according to situations. He lacks empathy, remorse, shame, or guilt. Moreover, as time progresses, Kevin becomes increasingly obsessive about his mother.
While a firm diagnosis is not possible, the film seems to suggest that Kevin has an Antisocial Personality Disorder. The early tell-tale signs are there. When coupled with Eva’s neglect and hatred towards Kevin, his condition turns into something more sinister. Some people have argued that Kevin is a sociopath. However, unlike sociopaths, Kevin is a cold and calculative murderer without a moral compass. Therefore, he may be veering more towards psychopathy than sociopathy.