We Need to Talk About Kevin

OK, so if there wasn’t really anything to say, why exactly did We Need to Talk About Kevin? Director Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation (with Rory Kinnear) of Lionel Shriver’s novel contemplates the perpetrator of a high-school massacre. With its emptily evil brat embodied at various ages by Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and Ezra Miller, the non-story plays out as a mannered retrospective litany of warning signs, cut against his mother’s stoic guilt. Tilda Swinton dignifies this exercise with such skill that for a few moments we even stop asking why she would, but basically it’s just some hyper-pretentious horror flick. Complete with self-congratulating music cues, and John C. Reilly as the malefactor’s too-credulous father, Ramsay’s shriveled vision regresses us to the pretentious indie rubbish of the 1990s. It’s an outdated, unexamined pose of nihilism, somehow at once sneering and ingratiating. Which, to some tastes, might indeed seem “masterful.”