Today’s post will be a review of the movie, We Need to Talk about Kevin, which has relevance here as it involves a child who progresses to late adolescence with serious personality problems. Stylistically, the movie is excellent, and is told in a series of flashbacks which get across the mother’s state of mind and emotional turmoil as she tries to parent her difficult son and deals with the aftermath of the tragedy he has wreaked. I liked the way in which the movie conveyed how the mother’s experience is so different, and much more challenging, compared to that of the physicians she consults and her husband’s. Mothers are typically the ones to bear the brunt of their children’s difficulties. Even though I don’t like feeling depressed, I have to give credit to a movie that is able to evoke that mood in me.
From a mental health standpoint, the portrayal of Kevin’s affliction, which is never named in the movie, is a bit off center. One can assume that when Kevin reaches young adulthood, he could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and possibly conduct disorder when he was younger. But as a young child, there should have been more anger problems evident to include temper tantrums and possibly hitting the mother, in order to fit the pattern of a person who ends up committing the kind of violent act he does. However, Kevin’s defiance against being toilet trained until a late age was a nice touch. One last issue I had with the mental health portrayal was the lack of mention of therapists. For an upper-class family and with the kind of problems Kevin had (even taking into account the father’s denial), there still would have been some discussion of psychological treatment and psychotherapy.
We Need to Talk about Kevin possessed some other jarring notes. Why is the mother, this British woman, in the United States? This is left unexplained. She is also never shown working until her son is a teenager, and there is a sign on a bookstore window with a gigantic picture of her, announcing a booksigning. Kevin looks bi-racial Asian, and his parents are white, even though he is supposed to be their natural child. Further (and here is a big spoiler alert), Kevin’s method of killing involves archery. I could see maybe one person getting hurt and possibly dying this way, but after the first shot, couldn’t a person outrun him in a school or tackle him? Archery just doesn’t have the same lethality that gun violence does, and isn’t able to translate into the large-scale violence that Kevin supposedly causes. However, and despite its many flaws, I found We Need to Talk about Kevin cleverly done and well worth my attention.