We Really Need to Talk About Kevin and Lynne Ramsay

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by Melissa Silverstein
December 9, 2011 11:34 AM
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I saw We Need to Talk About Kevin co-written and directed by Lynne Ramsay at the Toronto Film Festival.  It was one of the best movies I saw there and it is still one of the best movies that I have seen this year.  My thoughts (which I wrote at the festival) on the film are below.  Not only have they not changed, they have actually gotten stronger as I have seen some of the other movies in the Oscar race. 

There is no good reason why this film and this director is not a part of the year end conversation.  The only reason why I can think of is because the film is by a woman about a woman, a mother who has raised a monster.   The movie scares the crap out of people and it touches nerves and makes people uncomfortable.  But isn't that one of the things that makes a great movie?

I can honestly say that I don't know if I would be this pissed about Lynne Ramsay and her work being overlooked if there were any other women in the Oscar conversations (I will comment on the way Phyllida Lloyd's work in The Iron Lady being dismissed at a later date), but based on my research, it looks like there are NO women directors are going to get nominated this year.  And it's not because their work is not good enough. 

I've been having a lovely email interchange with Lynne Ramsay and the woman knows she directed a good movie.  She owns it which makes me so happy because guys have no trouble owning their successes and women are supposed to be self deprecating and not stand up for their work.  We need many women to stand up for their work and for them to say shit, yeah, I'm just as good as these guys.  Because when many women do it -- and not just one -- maybe it will sink into all of our heads just a bit more.

Here's what Lynne Ramsay had to say about her film and why the film is getting overlooked:

Firstly, I don't make films with prizes in mind but having said that I do think the film stands up against any other of the films mentioned.  Perhaps it's the subject matter that makes people uncomfortable, but I tried to make a very accessible hard hitting drama that despite it's dark subject has other levels and works as a compelling film.

In terms of a director I feel at the top of my game and the film demonstrates that. I think people are a frightened of very provocative subject matter (maybe even more so from a woman?) but that's what always keeps cinema exciting and new for me.

So I really have no idea? The film was the only UK film in competition this year at Cannes as well as premiering in North America at Teluride and Torronto, winning the best film at London  Film Festival and best director at the British Independent film awards as well as best actress for Tilda at the European film awards. It should most definitely be included.

Yes it should.

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Toronto Review of We Need To Talk About Kevin

I woke up thinking about Tilda Swinton's blank face from We Need to Talk About Kevin. It is amazing how much expressiveness there can be in a blank stare. The movie directed bravely by Lynne Ramsay is an adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel of the same name. Like Ramsay, Shriver is not a shy artist and her book The Post Birthday World is one of my all time favorites.

The film is told from the point of view of Eva Khatchadourian, the mother of Kevin, who has just committed a Columbine like atrocity in his high school. It asks the question about whether she should have seen it coming, as well as the ultimate question that cuts to the core of all mothers - is this my fault?

Not being a mom myself, I am still on team Eva. There is no way for a mother who tried so hard to love and connect with her kid (who was clearly always difficult and as he aged grew surly and mean) to know that he was going to be a sociopathic serial killer. How could she? How could anyone? It's unfathomable and that's what make the whole exploration so interesting. This kid showed tell-tale signs (like bunny murder) but they were constantly dismissed and she was made to seem that she was taking it too seriously.

But she wasn't. There was something off about Kevin and she did nothing and then he did something horrible and unforgivable and she is also paying the price. In the aftermath of the event she is barely holding on and for some reason stays in the town where it occurred to continue to be tortured by it which I think is part of her contrition for not doing something about her kid. She can't move on. She's stuck.

This film is as director Lynne Ramsay said last night "a bumpy ride." This is not for the faint of heart. But it is a really good movie, really well directed by a woman with immense visual talent.

And Swinton - what is there to say about her? She's magnificent and brave -- I know I keep using that word but because the movie is about such a tough subject that just taking it on seems brave -- and this film again proves she is one of the top actresses working today.

We Need to Talk About Kevin opens in NY and LA today and will open wider in January.  Fuller interview with Lynne Ramsay will be available then.

Making the Case for Lynne Ramsay in the Best Director Discussion (Women and Hollywood)

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