In 2004, when I first went away to college, I had the opportunity to see Gus Van Sant's Palm D'or winning film Elephant for the first time. I was shocked, disturbed, enthralled, and obsessed with the film. It was a re-imagining of the Columbine school shootings from the perspective of the two killers. Van Sant used untrained high school students to play all of the roles and used their natural instincts to great effect. The one thing I wondered about that film was whether or not the lack of character development hurt or helped the feature. Other than the suggestion that the two boys were lovers and very broad strokes--this kid is in the GSA, this kid is a nerd, this kid is a jock, etc.--the film relied on the power of the events and the emotions of the performers to create its impact.
I don't think I'll have to wonder about that question much longer. We Need To Talk About Kevin is being released in the US before the end of the year for Oscar eligibility. It is the story of a mother who cannot make an emotional connection with her son who begins to exhibit stranger behavior towards her and others as he grows up. It appears, on some level, to be a character-driven version of Elephant, only the developed character's role in the tragedy that is forthcoming is implied rather than directly connected.
While I loved the international trailer for its broader focus on Kevin and his mother's characters, this new US trailer is breathtaking. It presents a sense of mystery about Kevin, which can serve as a great ploy to pull people into the film. While everyone might not like a gritty indie film about emotional disconnections and (presumably) some level of nature versus nurture debate, a whole lot of people like a good mystery. Why do we need to talk about Kevin? Did he do something wrong? Is he something wrong? Has something happened to him? Is his family abandoning him? What on Earth do we need to talk about?
Aside from the style of the trailer, the content in this version once again impresses me. Swinton appears to be giving a great performance, as is relative newcomer Ezra Miller as Kevin. I'm more drawn to how the timeline is going to be handled in the film. Will it be linear, watching Kevin grow up? Or will it jump between repeated episodes of behavior in Kevin's life, like in this trailer? I think the latter would be more rewarding, though the former could build quite a lot of suspense and dread by the end.
Whatever the case, the film looks like it might be an event. It's another film that I feel compelled to see this year. I haven't, so far, been drawn to the big baity awards films. Instead, I've been won over by the marketing for smaller films like Insidious, Jane Eyre, and Martha Marcy May Marlene. This seems to fall into that category for me.