I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed by Lynne Ramsay's adaptation of Shriver's novel (which, by the way, I haven't read). It is certainly fascinating, if not entirely gripping, especially after the narrative slips into a groove after the first thirty minutes or so.
Ramsay is using sound and visual imagery in a consciously masterful way here, but at times both can seem a bit meddlesome. The Hillbilly background tracks and the persistent intrusion of redness started to become more salient than my interest in the underlying emotional drama.
There's no question that the latter is inherently more likely to have greater traction with parents than non-parents such as myself, but the notion that a child can take shape as a living embodiment of one's own existential compromises —
and a vengeful one at that — is still an intriguing one, and the trajectory of an author like Michel Houellebecq suggests that there's surely something in it.
Yet I've seen enough kids come off the rails here in Guatemala to have formalised the view that it is almost always the fault of the father, however useless the mother might otherwise appear to be. John C Reilly's doomed alcahuete dad Franklin makes a series of near comic interventions, but the character is inevitably underdeveloped, because Ramsay is trying to fashion a first person narrative from inside his wife's troubled consciousness, something which never seems to quite work in the inevitably third person medium of film.
It's a brave effort, but Tilda Swinton and her various haircuts are a less convincing presence than Ezra Miller and Jasper Newell, who play Kevin between the ages of 6 and 18 in the movie. And while I could see why she might be living in a hell of self-recrimination, it bothered me that apart from one or two suggestions regarding Kevin's line of defence at trial, Ramsay is less specific as to why the community around Eva should choose to project back onto her this sense of inner culpability so forcibly. (And could she not have moved away?) For while troubled teens and even adults may well emerge from misshapen domestic environments, I think we all know that deeper psychoses such as this are both more intrinsic and indwelling.