It is the only time on film that I have seen depicted a son who, from birth, loathes his mother. The contempt the son has for his mother is at the heart of this picture, and it makes for a compelling, even riveting story.
Kevin would have been rated higher, as this is a fascinating original work whose scenes are consummately executed. But there are two big flaws that bring it down. First, though believable enough while watching the movie, a little thought afterward renders the consistently hateful behavior of the son toward his mother as less than credible. It’s a little hard to believe that her son would act this way in the first place, and then that his mother, a responsible professional writer, would tolerate it to the extent she does. This flaw is huge in that it forms one of the two tent-poles of the movie; the two basic premises of the movie.
The other flaw lies with the depiction of the mother’s life without her son. When not spending time with the unfortunate family, the movie jumps forward to a time when the lone mother, rather mysteriously, is living on her own as a pariah of the community. The mystery is not fully explained until the final climactic scene of the movie, and it is an explanation that does not congeal at all. I cannot discuss further without giving away the end, so I will refrain for now. But this explanation serves as the second major premise of the movie and greatly weakens the whole, yielding a dissatisfaction as I walked out of the theater.
Nonetheless, this movie is not boring. Where it works it works well, so I’m giving a qualified recommendation to We Need to Talk About Kevin: 6/10, which puts it between Barbara and Arbitrage on my 2012 list. It is broken, yet delivers a particularly nasty and novel form of sheer evil which is a sight to behold. Make sure to watch the trailer first (link here; scroll down and click on trailer) to get a sense of whether or not it’s your cup of tea. It’s gotten a lot of praise elsewhere, so you may just love it. And it will definitely stick with you for a while.