Book Shelf to Big Screen: “We Need To Talk About Kevin”

“Kevin’s mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.” (via

Why I’m on Team “The Book Was Better”

  • The novel is written as a series of letters from Eva to her husband, Franklin. While it took a while to get used to because there’s a lot of “you said” in order to convey Franklin’s dialog, I think this was the best way to peer behind Eva’s eyes. It’s as if she says all of the things she couldn’t speak when they were married and raising the dreadful Kevin.

  • The “M. Night Shyamalan” twist didn’t feel underhanded or cliché, for once. It hauntingly yet logically explained why Eva continues to visit her son even after he is incarcerated.
  • I felt much more frustrated with the husband for not believing for a second that Kevin might be a bad seed based from the words on the page than the images on the screen.
  • The backdrop of recent school shootings in the time the story takes place were much more evenly woven throughout. The context ultimately plays a large part in the violent act Kevin takes out in the end.
  • The confrontation of a mother’s worst fear is amplified in the novel. It’s an intimate experience and often I felt as the reader that I was being asked to face them as well. The plot is specific, but the underlining dread may be universal.
Perhaps for such an intense book-to-film adaptation, I should have skipped ahead to the movie. I knew what was missing and there half the terror and suspense were absent too. Many of my favorite scenes from the film aren’t  play by play accounts of the text but is an example of how I was able to appreciated director Lynne Ramsay’s cinematic choices because I already knew the plot. A few scenes offer even the essence of the entire story. Eva versus Kevin with the whole world playing dumb to the fact that he might be the spawn of Satan (okay not really but pretty close).
 The film student in me also liked the red motif used throughout. It’s established from the very first ten minutes. Always the go to color for horror films, red is the most cliché when used as blood, which equals death and boom – audience is scared. Ramsay gives a buffet of red to convey Eva’s disastrous world (red filters, red paint, crushed tomatoes, cans of tomato soup, and yes of course, some blood). Her choice of music was the most polarizing I’d ever heard before. Often the most gut wrenching images, while in the book have nothing but the ambiance of wherever the reader maybe at the time, Ramsay uses easy-listening tunes. The edit together sent more chills up my spine than any film in a long time. Although I could have done with a few less sound cues, I definitely couldn’t have gotten the same vibe from the text alone. And do we even have to talk about how Tilda Swinton was robbed at award season? The film is a gripping retelling of a age old debate regarding good versus evil: “Is it nature or nurture?”  If you’ve already seen the movie version, I can’t recommend the novel enough. Even if you don’t have kids , it’ll be something you’re chewing on for days to come.
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