herald

Sunday 24 February 2019

Talk about terror

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN Drama. Starring Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jesper Newell, Rocky Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich. Directed by Lynne Ramsay. Cert 16

The diverse problems with filming a best-seller can be boiled down to a straightforward dilemma: does a director risk the wrath of devoted followers by ignoring aspects of the story and even omitting characters, or take everything that was on the page and lash it up onto the screen?

The directors of the Harry Potter franchise were obliged to trudge through some dreadful guff you just knew they'd love to have taken a shears to, while Peter Jackson came a cropper with his The Lovely Bones, by deviating from the novel's narrative.

Oddly enough, Lynne Ramsay had read an unfinished manuscript of Alice Sebold's work and would have brought some sense of leftfield threat to proceedings had she taken on the project, because that's certainly what she's done with this take on Lionel Shriver's novel.

Not having read Shriver's account of a teenage boy's crime, its impact on his mother, and what led him to commit such a terrible act, I can only judge We Need to Talk About Kevin as a piece of cinema and, in that respect, it's a fabulous piece of work.

From the wordless opening scene, when we see Eva (Tilda Swinton) as a free-spirited young artist cavorting with fellow revellers at a tomato-throwing festival in Valencia, the screen saturated with rich reds as she's carried in cruciform position across the heads of the crowd, there's a sense of dread and foreboding established that doesn't relent until the final credits.

Ramsay's technique involves leaping back and forth in time, so we discover very quickly that something terrible has happened which has led Eva to try to restart her life in the face of hostility from her neighbours while seeing how, right from the moment he was born, Kevin was a bad 'un destined for a terrible fate.

Played by three actors, the character of Kevin is terrifying even as a toddler (Rocky Duer), becomes more menacing and disruptive as a six-to-eight-year-old (Jesper Newell) and as a teenager (Ezra Miller) he's as scary as any demon child in a horror movie. While Kevin knows that his mother can see him for what he is, like all sociopaths, he can be utterly charming when he needs to manipulate people -- in this case his gormless father (John C Reilly) and adoring younger sister (Ashley Gerasimovich).

Ramsay's arthouse approach doesn't detract from powerful performances from Swinton and Miller, her use of an oddly unsettling sound design and some great cinematography by Seamus McGarvey ensuring that We Need to Talk About Kevin is more than your average adaptation.

Mind you, it's not a film they'll be keen on showing in Holles Street or the Rotunda. HHHHI

THE YELLOW SEA Thriller. Starring Ha Jung-Woo, Kim Yun-Seok, Cho Seong-Ha, Kwak Byoung-Kyu. Directed by Na Hong-Jin. Cert 18

When Western audiences first got a glimpse of Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy we knew we were dealing with a film-maker whose approach to visceral violence made Quentin Tarantino look like Richard Curtis. His fellow Korean director Na Hong-Jin isn't shy when it comes to splashing the crimson either.

Reunited with the charismatic Ha Jung-Woo after the excellent serial-killer thriller The Chaser two years ago, The Yellow Sea is a beautifully made story of a gambling-addicted cab driver (Jung-Woo) who's offered a way out of financial troubles by local gangster Myun (the truly frightening Kim Yun-Seok, inset) if he'll travel to Seoul and murder a leading businessman.

Using the job as an opportunity to find his missing wife, our taximan finds himself in the middle of double and triple crosses between rival gangsters as the body count mounts up. Hatchets, cleavers, kitchen knives, hammers and even a giant leg of lamb are used to deadly effect in a film that zips along for the whole of its 140-minute running-time. HHHHI

ALSO OPENING THIS WEEK:

Paranormal Activity 3 is the latest in the horror franchise, while Reckless sees Gus Van Sant continuing his favourite theme of beautiful but doomed young outsiders. Alas, neither received an Irish media screening.

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