We Need to Talk About Kevin (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLynne Ramsay
Screenplay by
  • Lynne Ramsay
  • Rory Stewart Kinnear
Based onWe Need to Talk About Kevin
by Lionel Shriver
Produced by
CinematographySeamus McGarvey
Edited byJoe Bini
Music byJonny Greenwood
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 12 May 2011 (2011-05-12) (Cannes)
  • 21 October 2011 (2011-10-21) (United Kingdom)
  • 9 December 2011 (2011-12-09) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$7 million[3]
Box office$10.8 million[4]

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a 2011 psychological thriller drama film directed by Lynne Ramsay from a screenplay she co-wrote with Rory Stewart Kinnear, based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver. A long process of development and financing began in 2005, with filming commencing in April 2010.

Tilda Swinton stars as the mother of Kevin, struggling to come to terms with her psychopathic son and the horrors he has committed. The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was released in the United Kingdom on 21 October 2011.

Swinton was nominated for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and the BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role. It received generally positive reviews from critics.[5]


Eva Khatchadourian, once a successful travel writer, lives alone in a rundown house and works in a travel agency near a prison, where she visits her son Kevin. She reflects upon her memories of raising him as she tries to cope with the hostility of her neighbors.

A reluctant mother, Eva views Kevin as detached and difficult from childhood. He appears to loathe and deliberately antagonize Eva, who struggles to bond with him. As a baby, he cries incessantly, but only around her; as a child, he resists toilet training, rebuffs Eva's attempts at affection, and shows no interest in anything. He behaves like a happy, loving son in front of his father Franklin, who dismisses Eva's concerns and makes excuses for Kevin's behavior. One day, Eva's frustration with Kevin drives her to throw him against the wall, breaking his arm. Kevin tells Franklin he fell and uses the incident to manipulate Eva, threatening to tell Franklin the truth if she does not do things he wants.

When Kevin is confined to bed with a fever, he shows affection towards Eva for the first time as she reads Robin Hood, though his spiteful personality returns as soon as he recovers. Franklin gives Kevin a bow and arrow and teaches him archery.

Sometime later, Eva gives birth to her and Franklin's second child Celia, a lively and cheerful girl towards whom Kevin is instantly disdainful. A few years later, Celia's pet guinea pig mysteriously goes missing. Eva finds its remains in the garbage disposal the next day, which she unclogs with drain cleaner. Celia is blinded in one eye after being exposed to the cleaner while Kevin was tasked with watching her, requiring her to wear a glass eye in its place. Eva suspects Kevin injured his sister on purpose, but Franklin defends him. Tired of Eva's distrust of their son, Franklin discusses divorce with her, and Kevin overhears their conversation.

Three days before his 16th birthday, Kevin uses bicycle locks to trap several students in the school gymnasium and murders them with his bow and arrows. After witnessing Kevin's arrest and the bodies of his victims being carried away, Eva returns home to discover that Kevin has murdered Franklin and Celia as well.

On the second anniversary of the massacre, Eva visits Kevin in prison; his demeanor has changed to demure and frightened in his anticipation of being transferred to an adult prison. Eva finally asks him why he committed the murders. Kevin responds that he used to think he knew but is no longer sure. Eva embraces Kevin and leaves.



In 2005 BBC Films acquired the rights to adapt the book as a film.[6] Executive producers Paula Jalfon and Christine Langan took it through the development stage, and were joined by executive producer Steven Soderbergh.[7]

Lynne Ramsay, who became available after her involvement in the film adaptation of The Lovely Bones came to an end, signed on to direct, and was working on a script with In the Bedroom writer Robert Festinger by 2006. Shriver was offered a consultative role in the production process but declined, stating she had "had it up to [her] eyeballs with that book," though she did express concern for how the film would capture Eva's role as the unreliable narrator.[8] Production had not begun by 2007, though BBC Films renewed the adaptation rights early in the year.[6] In an interview with The Herald in September 2007, Shriver stated that she had not been in contact with Ramsay about the film for over two years. Ramsay's spokesperson told the newspaper that a new script draft was being prepared and, at the time the interview was published, had not been submitted to the producers.[6] Michael Clayton producer Jennifer Fox joined the production team in 2008; the film was expected to begin shooting that year.[9] The script appeared on the 2008 Brit List, a film-industry-compiled list of the best unproduced screenplays in British film.[10] Ramsay's partner Rory Stewart Kinnear also contributed to the final shooting script.[11]

Christine Langan told the London Evening Standard in February 2010 that the long delay in production had been caused by BBC Films having difficulty funding the high budget; Ramsay rewrote the script so the film could be made for a lower cost.[12] The UK Film Council awarded £18,510 to the production from its development fund in the same month.[13] Financial backing was also provided by Footprint Investments LLP, Caemhan Partnership LLP and Lipsync Productions, and production is in association with Artina Films and Forward Films.[14]

Filming commenced on 19 April 2010 on location in Stamford, Connecticut, and concluded on 28 May 2010.[15][16] A key filming location was J.M. Wright Technical High School in Stamford.[17]

Jonny Greenwood composed the film's score.[18]


In October 2009, Independent Film Company picked up the rights to international sales, and made pre-sales at the American Film Market.[19] The film premiered In Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival,[20] where it was met with praise from film critics.[21]

Artificial Eye distributed the film in the United Kingdom from 21 October 2011[1] and Oscilloscope Laboratories distributed the film theatrically in North America in the winter of 2011.[22] We Need to Talk About Kevin opened in a limited release in North America in a single theater and grossed $24,587, ranking 53rd at the box office. The film ended up earning $1,738,692 in the US, and $5,754,934 internationally, for a total of $7,493,626.[23]

We Need to Talk About Kevin was released on Blu-ray and DVD on 29 May 2012.[24]


Critical response[edit]

We Need to Talk About Kevin received positive reviews. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 75% based on 210 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful blend of drama and horror, with fantastic performances across the board (Tilda Swinton especially, delivering one of her very best)."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on reviews from 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[26]

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars and wrote, "As a portrait of a deteriorating state of mind, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful film."[27] British film critic Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live named We Need to Talk About Kevin as the Best Film of 2011[28] and as the second best film of the 2010s.[29] Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker that We Need to Talk About Kevin "masquerades as a psychological puzzle but is essentially a horror film full of decorous sensationalism." He opined that the film exploited but did not explore the fascination that "bad seed" children exert.[30] Jake Martin, a Jesuit priest and movie critic, wrote in his review in Busted Halo that the film is "[not] yet another installment in the pantheon of post-modern films intent upon assaulting the human desire to give meaning to the world." Instead, he says, "We Need to Talk About Kevin in fact needs to be talked about, as what it is attempting to do by marrying the darkest, most nihilistic components of contemporary cinema with a redemptive message is groundbreaking."[31]


Tilda Swinton was nominated for a number of acting awards, including a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA for Best Actress in a leading role.'[32]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result
Austin Film Critics Association Best Actress Tilda Swinton Won
AACTA International Award 27 January 2012 Best Actress Nominated
Best Direction Lynne Ramsay
Best Film Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Bob Salerno
Best Screenplay Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear
BAFTA Award 12 February 2012 Best Director Lynne Ramsay
Best Actress in a Leading Role Tilda Swinton
Outstanding British Film Jennifer Fox, Rory Stewart Kinnear, Lynne Ramsay, Luc Roeg, Robert Salerno
Bodil Award 16 March 2013 Best American Film Lynne Ramsay
British Independent Film Award 4 December 2011 Best Director Won
Best Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
Best British Independent Film
Best Screenplay Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear
Best Supporting Actor Ezra Miller
Best Technical Achievement (for cinematography) Seamus McGarvey
Cannes Film Festival 11–22 May 2011 Palme d'Or Lynne Ramsay
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 12 January 2012 Best Actress Tilda Swinton
Best Young Actor/Actress Ezra Miller
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association 16 December 2011 Russell Smith Award Lynne Ramsay Won
Best Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
European Film Award 3 December 2011 Best Actress Won
Evening Standard British Film Award Best Film Lynne Ramsay
Best Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
Best Technical Achievement (for sound design) Paul Davies
Flanders International Film Festival Ghent Canvas Audience Award Lynne Ramsay Won
Grand Prix for Best Film Nominated
Golden Globe Award 15 January 2012 Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama Tilda Swinton
Irish Film & Television Awards 11 February 2012 Best Director of Photography (Film/TV Drama) Seamus McGarvey Won
Best International Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle 19 January 2012 British Film of the Year Won
Actress of the Year Tilda Swinton Nominated
British Actress of the Year
Director of the Year Lynne Ramsay
Technical Achievement (for sound design) Paul Davies
London Film Festival Best Film Lynne Ramsay Won
National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Best Actress Tilda Swinton
Top Ten Independent Films
Online Film Critics Society Award 2 January 2012 Best Actress Tilda Swinton
Best Editing Joe Bini Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear
Rembrandt Award Best International Actress Tilda Swinton
San Diego Film Critics Society 14 December 2011 Best Actress
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Actress Won
Screen Actors Guild Award 29 January 2012 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association 18 December 2011 Best Actress
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival Jury Prize: Best Director Lynne Ramsay Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association 5 December 2011 Best Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
Writers' Guild of Great Britain 14 November 2012 Best Film Screenplay Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear Won


  1. ^ a b "We Need to Talk About Kevin: world exclusive trailer – video" (includes video clip). The Guardian. London. 12 August 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  2. ^ "We Need to Talk About Kevin (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  3. ^ "We Need to talk About Kevin running time, production dates, budget". Movie Insider. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  4. ^ "We Need to Talk About Kevin". The Numbers.
  5. ^ "The 100 best films of the 21st century (so far)". Time Out Worldwide. 6 February 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  6. ^ a b c Miller, Phil (14 September 2007). "Why does this author need to talk about filming Kevin?". The Herald. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  7. ^ McClintock, Paula (23 April 2010). "Ramsay rounds out 'Kevin' cast". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  8. ^ Arendt, Paul (6 June 2006). "Ramsay needs to shoot a film about Kevin". The Guardian. London: Guardian News & Media. p. 21 (G2 supplement).
  9. ^ Kemp, Stuart (18 May 2008). "BBC Films has diverse slate". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
  10. ^ Thomas, Archie (3 October 2008). "Brit List brings scripts to light". Variety. Reed Business Information.
  11. ^ Burgeson, John (30 March 2010). "In Stratford, sweet love drowns out sour weather". CT Post. Hearst Newspapers.
  12. ^ Curtis, Nick (19 February 2010). "The women behind the British film industry". London Evening Standard. ES London. p. 27.
  13. ^ "Awards Database: We Need to Talk About Kevin". UK Film Council. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  14. ^ Staff (23 April 2010). ""We Need to talk About Kevin" starts filming this week". HollywoodNews.com. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  15. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (22 April 2010). "The welcome return of Lynne Ramsay". London: guardian.co.uk (Guardian News & Media). Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  16. ^ Dundas Wood, Mark (28 May 2010). "New York Production Listings". BackStage.com. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  17. ^ O'Connell, A.J. (1 August 2010). "Hollywood East: On location in Connecticut". The Hour. The Hour Publishing Co. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  18. ^ Kemp, Stuart (14 February 2011). "Radiohead's Johny Greenwood to Score 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' (Berlin)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  19. ^ Kay, Jeremy (22 October 2009). "Independent boards We Need To Talk About Kevin for AFM". ScreenDaily.com (Emap Media). Retrieved 22 October 2009.
  20. ^ "Festival de Cannes - From 16 to 27 may 2012". Festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  21. ^ "Cannes gets talking about British Kevin drama". BBC News. 12 May 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  22. ^ Fischer, Russ (24 May 2011). "Cannes Showstopper 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' Picked up By Oscilloscope". /Film. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  23. ^ We Need to Talk About Kevin at Box Office Mojo
  24. ^ "We Need To Talk About Kevin Blu-Ray Gets A US Release Date". 21 February 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  25. ^ "We Need to Talk About Kevin". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 5 October 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  26. ^ "We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)". Metacritic. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (25 January 2012). "We Need to Talk About Kevin Movie Review (2012)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  28. ^ Kermode, Mark (6 January 2012). "Eleven from Eleven". BBC Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  29. ^ Kermode, Mark (24 December 2019). "#63: The Top Ten Films of the Decade". Kermode on Film. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  30. ^ Brody, Richard (November 2011). "We Need to Talk About Kevin". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  31. ^ Martin, Jake. "We need to talk about We Need to Talk about Kevin". Busted Halo. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  32. ^ Thomson, David (8 March 2012). "Thomson on Film: A Movie About a School Shooting That Ignores the Shooter". The New Republic. Retrieved 25 May 2013.

External links[edit]