Back in February, I read “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. While I struggled with the first part of the book, I did enjoy it. This epistolary novel tackles the question that parents do not ever want to ask themselves about their own children; Are killers born or made? Shriver succeeds with this novel by providing many instances throughout where it is left up to the reader to argue whether it was Eva’s fault that Kevin turned out the way he did, or if Kevin, was born evil. Her focus on this theme is demonstrated by the characters themselves; Eva, and her ambivalence toward motherhood, Franklin, the high hope, “my child can do no wrong”, optimist, and Kevin, the antithesis to a loving child.
So when I heard that it was being made into a movie I was really excited. Now whenever books are made into films, I do try to see the movie first because if I read the book first, I find the movie is ruined for me. I know how things are going to end, I already have what the characters look like in my mind and things that are omitted from the movie that were in the book irritate me. But if I watch the movie first then read the books, I can still enjoy both for what they are. There are scene, lines and characters that weren’t in the movie that are in the book that let me differentiate and enjoy the book.
With all that in the mind, I did read the book first, attended a book reading of Lionel Shriver where she spoke about the book and had her sign my book, so I had high expectations of the movie. And they didn’t meet them, whatsoever. I have to say that for the most part, the characters were horribly miscast, especially Franklin, played by John C. Reilly. With that said, Ezra Miller who played Kevin and Ashley Gerasimovich who played Celia, were how I imagined them.
I think the thing that bothered me the most was that the movie felt almost like “Art for art sake.” With the odious music that often drowned out the conversation and the montages of Eva scrubbing the red paint off of her house, the blatant metaphor of “blood on her hands,” I found myself wanting to turn it off. The movie failed to capture the struggles between the main characters and some of the things that Kevin did in the book. The movie implied the struggle between Eva and Kevin without showing it, at all. So if I had to choose, the book all the way!