If I were asked "which book made the biggest impact on you?", I'd be hard-pressed to come up with one that made a bigger impact than "We Need To Talk About Kevin". It was one of those books that was SO well-written, so insightful, yet so disturbing, I didn't know whether I loved it or hated it. I'm still not sure.
The idea of seeing this terrifying business brought to life on the screen made me feel all...weird. It got decent reviews overall, but I had concerns about the casting and the potential failure to capture the book's essence. In the end, though, I had to do it.
In the book, Eva is writing a series of letters to her husband, in an in-depth examination of her life raising their son Kevin. Admittedly, Eva is not a maternal soul, and didn't exactly click with her first-born. In fact, she has felt from the very beginning that her son may be disturbed. This fear becomes a reality when Kevin plans and executes a massacre on some of his classmates.
The book is highly internal, almost a rambling stream-of-consciousness from a mother who is trying to figure out, for the sake of her sanity, if she contributed at all to the creation of this monster, or if he was innately bad from the beginning.
Only in the hands of an exceptional actor or actress can a movie be as internal as this one needed to be. In that sense, picking Tilda Swinton was the right choice. I still don't think it was enough, but she did the best she could do with her haunted eyes and gaunt, suffering expressions. The confidences that are shared in the letters in the book, though, are not present in film.
Ezra Miller played an incredibly chilling Kevin. He got the sneer, the swagger, the manipulative "bi-polar" personality that he turned on and off between his parents. He was so spot on, I'm not sure how I will react to this young man in any other film.
The major issue I had with casting was that of John C. Reilly as Eva's husband, Franklin. It has been some time since I've read the book, but I came away with the impression that the man was fairly attractive. I have nothing against Reilly's acting, but his poofy clown hair, pot belly and goofiness just did not work for me. (Not that Swinton is a beauty, but she made up for it with her suffering.)
The non-linear style of the movie made it hard to follow, even if you have read the book. At times, the only clue as to what time period we were in was the length of Swinton's hair. The entire movie in fact was fragmented and laden with impending doom. Which could also be said about the book, except that the book provides that internal dialogue and insight that is a hallmark of Shriver's work, and made the novel more than a sum of its parts.
Ultimately, I think the key to understanding and appreciating this movie would be to read the book first. It will give you that extra edge that makes the story more than just another Columbine tale.