DRAMA WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (15) 112min ●●●●●
Lynne Ramsay admirers can breathe a sigh of relief. Her first feature since Morvern Callar in 2002 confirms that she has lost none of her skill as a compelling storyteller or visual stylist. Her smart, thought-provoking adaptation of the Lionel Shriver bestseller maintains the narrative core of the book whilst rendering it in fresh cinematic terms. Shriver’s novel confronts the aftermath of a Columbine-style high school
massacre through a shell-shocked mother’s letters to her absent husband. Ramsay addresses exactly the same issues of guilt and a faulty, compromised maternal instinct by ignoring Shriver’s literary conceit and creating a dreamy, jigsaw-like film that deftly juggles time and perspective. Ramsay constantly emphasises vivid red from an opening scene at the La Tomatina festival to sticky strawberry jam and a wall of Campbell’s soup cans in a supermarket. It is the colour of blood, of course, and like Lady
Macbeth, Eva is unable to escape it or wash it away.
Tilda Swinton is well cast as the steely, stoical Eva, a woman confronting her sense of failure and possible complicity in the acts of her son Kevin. Sifting through the memories of their past relationship she is seeking to answer whether his actions were her fault. Did she always resent him, did the supposedly natural bond between mother and child never flourish in this one case? Scenes appear like splinters of glass from a shattered mirror as the once vibrant Eva is transformed into a dead-eyed survivor taken to the edge by a child who reserved his affection exclusively for his eternally affable father Franklin (John C Reilly).
Ezra Miller is brilliant as the teenage Kevin; a boy with the sneering look of a malevolent Puck whose actions are unforgivable because they are so merciless and calculated. His Kevin is a monstrous figure who could test the limits of any mother’s love and he makes the film more chilling than any conventional horror story. (Allan Hunter) ■ Selected release from Fri 21 Oct.
DRAMA WUTHERING HEIGHTS (15) 129min ●●●●● THRILLER/HORROR STRAW DOGS (18) 109min ●●●●●
DRAMA/ROMANCE WEEKEND (18) 96min ●●●●●
Andrea Arnold hit home runs with her first two films, Red Road and Fish Tank. Her new film, an attempt at adapting Emily Brontë’s seminal novel, gets bogged down in the Yorkshire Moors. The director seems more concerned with paying
homage to Robert Bresson and the Dardenne brothers than she is with telling a winning story. Her big, bold move is to make Heathcliff black. It doesn’t work. At no stage is race treated as anything other than as a simple explanation as to why the white community tilling the land on the Yorkshire moors don’t like this potential suitor to Catherine. In playing the race card Arnold should have taken
notes from Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven. She employs different actors to play Catherine and Healthcliffe when they are young (Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer) and old (James Howson and Kaya Scodelario – see feature, page 14), and demands that the lines, whether delivered by non- actors or professionals, are stilted and devoid of emotion. Stripping the story of romance and trying to make a statement about man and nature proves both pointless and self-defeating. (Kaleem Aftab) ■ Selected release from Fri 11 Nov.
68 THE LIST 20 Oct–17 Nov 2011
An early star vehicle for Dustin Hoffman, Sam Peckinpah’s film of Gordon Williams’ novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm was one of the high (or low) watermarks of early 1970s brutalism – a moody, nihilistic polemic that equated violence with manhood, backed up with the repellent suggestion that women might enjoy the experience of being raped. Now hack Rod Lurie has directed a remake, shorn of the potent meanings of the original.
Reset to a bland Deep South setting, wimpy LA screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) move out to the Mississippi sticks to rebuild an old property, only to fall foul of the local yobs, led by Amy’s ex Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård). When David is lured out on a hunting trip, Charlie’s band of high-school jocks make their move on Amy, leading David to take his bloody revenge.
Love it or hate it, the original film at least reflected Sam Peckinpah’s own nihilistic kill-or-be-killed outlook. The 2011 version of Straw Dogs is a bland, soulless confection, devoid of cultural resonance. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 4 Nov.
A casual one night stand unexpectedly blossoms into a much more meaningful connection in Weekend, a tender heartbreaker from writer/director Andrew Haigh that is easily one of the most impressive British independent features of the year. Haigh’s tale of sex, love and longing is told with a beguiling sense of honesty and perceptiveness. It also features noteworthy performances from two screen newcomers. Tom Cullen’s Russell leaves an evening with his straight friends in Nottingham and heads to a gay club where he meets Glen (Chris New). The next morning, Glen asks Russell to record his feelings about their evening for his art project. It is the beginning of a greater intimacy as they share their insecurities and reveal their vulnerability. Over the course of a weekend they are both
thrilled and overwhelmed by the possibility that this could be the real thing. The whole situation is lent a terrible poignancy by the discovery that Glen is about to leave the country. Weekend is a captivating combination of Brief Encounter and Before Sunset that will quietly steal the heart of audiences gay, straight or anywhere in between. (Allan Hunter) ■ Selected release from Fri 4 Nov.