Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly start filming We Need to Talk About Kevin this week in London. ¬†The film is based on the novel by Lionel Shriver and is about a man who goes on a rampage two days before his sixteenth birthday. ¬†His mother must then deal with her own feelings of grief and responsibility. ¬†Kevin is played by Ezra Miller, a relative newcomer.
Kevin’s behavior throughout the book closely resembles that of a¬†sociopath, although reference to this condition is sparse and left mostly up to the reader’s imagination. He displays little to no affection or moral responsibility towards his family or community, and commonly distances himself from people to avoid attachment. Kevin seems to regard virtually everyone with contempt and hatred. Eva, his mother, makes frequent attempts to enter Kevin’s mind and identify some reason for his detachment and his actions. He engages in many acts of petty sabotage from an early age, from seemingly-innocent actions like spraying ink with a squirt gun on a room painstakingly wallpapered by his mother in rare maps, to encouraging a girl to gouge her¬†eczema-affected skin. Rationalization for his behavior is one of the central themes of the story: when asked the simple question ‘Why?’ after the massacre, he responds that he is giving the public the excitement and scandal that they secretly crave. Only in rare instances does another side of Kevin emerge: in childhood when he becomes very ill, and later, just before he is transferred to an adult prison and is evidently nervous. In these instances, he displays the simple need for love and comfort that all children seek.
There haven’t been many really good, authentic films made on the many school shootings we’ve endured here in America, but it isn’t a singularly American problem. ¬†Gus Van Sant took it on with Elephant, an interesting take on the Columbine massacre. ¬†I’ve been waiting for a writer or director to come along and tell it like it is. ¬†The phenomenon is something we’ve not come to terms with as a community, as a species even. ¬†Law enforcement can, perhaps, detect the type of personality most likely to go on a spree, but since the shooters differ so greatly, it is impossible to nail down a type absolutely. ¬†Bullying appears to have something to do with it, but not always. ¬†Video games seem to help them aim better and kill more people, but no one is ready to call video games “too dangerous for society.” ¬†Free speech protects them.
We Need to Talk About Kevin goes into the mind of the mother, which is probably the best place to start, although as a mother I get a tad annoyed that our societal problems are all too often places on the mother. ¬†Some sociopaths are born, not made. ¬†Either way, this project quickly rises to the top of my list of eagerly anticipated.