Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/USA, 2011. BBC Films, UK Film Council, Footprint Investment Fund, Piccadilly Pictures, Lipsync Productions, Independent, Artina Films, Rockinghorse Films, Caemhan, Panaramic, Beryl Betty, Atlantic Swiss Productions. Screenplay by Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver. Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey. Produced by Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Robert Salerno. Music by Jonny Greenwood. Production Design by Judy Becker. Costume Design by Catherine George. Film Editing by Joe Bini. Cannes Film Festival 2011. Golden Globe Awards 2011. National Board of Review Awards 2011. Toronto International Film Festival 2011. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
An endlessly watchable Tilda Swinton lives the embodiment of every new mother’s nightmare: she gives birth to a baby that never stops crying, who then becomes a sullen toddler and, eventually, an evil, homicidal teenager. Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, this eccentric film by Lynne Ramsay flashes back and forth between the present day, where Swinton lives among people who revile her for her offspring’s sins which have landed him in prison, and her memories of raising him. All current criticisms of indulgent parents who raise their children without critical feedback for fear of them turning out wrong is taken to its extreme, darkly satirical conclusion here, with characters who feel more like fairy tale archetypes than players in a gritty, dysfunctional family tell-all. With his bow and arrow strapped to his arm and his heavy, narrow-eyed gaze, Kevin (a wonderful Ezra Miller) could hardly be more gleefully terrifying if his mother’s name was Rosemary, but the film never gets silly in its treatment of its psychological extremes. Ramsay injects so much humour into the interactions between her actors that it supports her beautifully expressionistic visual style; it’s a shallow film but a wonderfully shallow one that never pretends to be anything other than what it is, and Swinton’s stupefied passivity is only that much more fascinating given the high style with which the story is achieved.