24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

« Previous Post | 24 Frames Home | Next Post »

Cannes 2011: Everyone feels the need to talk about 'Kevin'

May 13, 2011 |  6:15 am


It's one of the biggest questions of the Cannes Film Festival so far: Just how commercial is "We Need to Talk About Kevin"?

Lynn Ramsay's feature, her first since 2002 indie darling "Morvern Callar," screened to divisive reaction on the Croisette on Thursday. The movie, told in flashbacks and starring Tilda Swinton as the parent of a recalcitrant and ultimately violent son (played as a teenager by Ezra Miller), put off some critics and filmgoers as a two-dimensional effort that was, essentially, an art-house "Chucky," while prompting many others to extol its performances, emotional punch and strong sense of style. My colleague Kenneth Turan was deeply enamored of it.

The larger question bubbling beneath the debate -- and in the minds of the many distributors pondering an acquisition for the U.S. -- is how broadly it could play to commercial audiences. "Kevin," which is based on a novel by Lionel Shriver, has echoes of another troubled-parent picture, "In the Bedroom." That film was an art-house hit a decade ago, though it came out in a rather different climate for adult-oriented dramas.

There are also genre elements to the film -- indeed, one reporter at a news conference noted how part of it played like a horror movie -- that could help it with a broader audience, though it remains to be seen how much that would come through in the marketing of a rigorous drama.

At a news conference Thursday, filmmakers and performers noted that the movie didn't fit neatly into a box, but that it did contain a high degree of relatability. "This is about a nightmare scenario," Swinton said, "but it's not that far from being [about] a parent" generally. Parenthood is "not about facts; it's about feelings, and it's a bloody business raising a family. and it's a bloody business being a parent, and it's a really bloody business being a child."


Cannes 2011: A directing stalwart makes a triumphant return to the festival

-- Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France


Photo: Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Credit: Cannes Film Festival