We need to talk about Kevin – a review

What’s it like to be the parent of a budding psychopath?

Well, if you’ve ever wondered, this film is for you.  First of all, you know you’ve got a psychopath on your hands because from a very early age he’s perfected the Evil Stare.  He just sits there in his nappy and stares at you, like in the Omen.

Kevin’s mum is a tense, drawn-looking ex-hippy, and his dad is a fattish, wire-haired man who persists in thinking everything’s just fine right up until the day when his son shoots him dead with a bow and arrow.  The film is full of long-drawn out shots of Kevin’s mum looking empty and troubled, and confused flashbacks involving blurry city lights, red stuff, and the persistent thumping of a lawn sprinkler.

Kevin is just BAD from beginning to end – but he does have one interesting line. When his mother asks him, in prison, WHY he felt he had to murder his father, little sister and half the school population, he says,

“I used to think I knew. Now I’m not so sure.”

Which I took to mean, that he used to think he had a reason, and has now come to realise that he IS the reason.

Nobody believes me when I say that I see SOME similarities between Kev and Mr F when he was younger and stroppier.  Mr F, too, would perform dastardly acts for no apparent reason other than to enrage his parents (none of them involving guinea pigs).  Mr F also cried heartily and non-stop as a baby, and on occasion said some very MEAN things to his mum. There were times when I didn’t much like Mr F – though I always adored him.  I guess I always knew that behind the aggressive, annoying, defiant little boy, there was someone of warmth and intelligence and even compassion.

Nobody meeting Mr F now could imagine a time when he was less than engaging and delightful.  But what would it be like to be the parent of a child who was genuinely and deeply horrible? Do such children exist, without having to be moulded into evil by abusive parents?  The legend is creepily attractive but in reality I just don’t believe in the naturally ‘Evil Child’.

Do you?

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33 comments

  1. I think I read that what was once called a psychopath, and so evil, is now referred to as an Antisocial Behavior Disorder, which is not called a sickness, but a cognitive deficiency. Like all Behavior Disorders, they are characterized by a lack of conscience and empathy. It’s estimated (by whom, I’m not sure) that 2% of US citizens have a Behavior Disorder.

    • That’s really interesting. What interests me is that if you think about it, there are circumstances where being a psychopath would increase your survival skills – in which case ‘antisocial behaviour disorder’ would be normal and accepted. Say, among sharks perhaps? Anyway it’s lucky that it’s such a low percentage, and I guess maybe only a percentage of those, again, would act on it in a violent way. In the film, Kevin doesn’t have a choice about who he is – he just is.

      • That’s why it’s a deficiency and not a sickness, because it can’t be cured. The percentage may seem low, but it’s been suggested that it’s easier for people without a conscience or empathy to get into positions of power, and so influence the world at large, since they’re happy to trample people on the way up. So the percentage of people with a PD in power may be higher that for the percentage of people in the general population.

  2. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch this movie. If I did, I’d need to watch 24 hours of sunshiny fluff to make up for it. Although it would most certainly make me appreciate my two wonderful boys even more.

  3. It was such a great movie. I want to read the book. Definitely makes you feel slimy and greasy when you finish watching it. Great post.

  4. Dear butimbeautiful,

    I haven’t seen the film, but the book is excellent. I read it long before the film was made and I was quite shocked by the ending, I didn’t see it coming even though I usually have a good idea of what’s ahead. The ending is obviously well known now so I’m wondering how the film can live up to the book. I’ll have to watch it.

    Love Dotty xxx

  5. The book is so, so good. I’ve been wanting to see the movie for some time.

    Interestingly enough, there was an afterword by Lionel Shriver. In is, she come across as a bit prickly and pedantic, but clearly super super smart. And she corrects people on the pronunciation of ‘flaccid.’ Which is , apparently, ‘flak-sid,’ not ‘fla-sid.’

  6. i believe some kids have that wicked/evil streak in them from the very beginning. have seen the one’s with wicked streak, thus wont be surprise to encounter one with evil streak.

  7. Nope, i don’t kids are born evil. I mean, i can’t say that for certain, i’m certainly not God, but i would say this “evilness” would have to be a combination of some sort of misfirings in his genetic make up … half-baked brain, neurological disconnections that made his/her behavior “crazy” … or not normal. Evil, that’s for the writers of Rosemary’s baby and Kevin the Killer, Damien, Omen, beast.

    Was that kid eating a guinea pig at the kitchenette? I didn’t want to rewind it.

    I like the actress in this movie. She certainly doesn’t change her expression much. She’s a beautiful gawker. Reilly always plays the laid-back, easy going, “all’s well” character. I don’t know whether to slap him, or get a little bit of hope from him.

    On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to be chummy with psychopaths.

    • I shut my eyes at the guinea pig bit. No, I THINK he ‘just’ put it down that grinder thing some people have in their sinks. She’s a bit hyper, that actress – but then no wonder I guess! I have a photo of me holding Mr F as a baby, looking totally weary and desperate – quite similar, actually. I’m with you, I don’t think anyone’s born evil. Oh yes Reilly – well he would have done better to listen, but then, wouldn’t most of us, at some time? xo

  8. I’ve heard of many parents not ‘liking’ their children too much, especially during particular phases e.g. early infant constant screaming, etc. but like you, I don’t think a naturally evil child exists, nor have I ever heard anyone admit they think their child is evil. Yet even if they thought it, would they actually admit it, for fear of thinking they put that evil there?

    With a combination of cognitive deficiencies, hereditary neurological issues plus a bad environment whilst growing up e.g. possible abuse or not being taught to be caring & sympathetic, then yes, one can see how an evil mind could develop. But I still have a nagging thought… since becoming a parent I have realised how there is a core part of each of them (their character?) that has absolutely nothing to do with either me or their dad.

    Before having children I thought children were born with nothing and the parents put everything there – but now I know that’s not true, they are each predisposed to be primarily ‘themselves’, wherever that may come from.

    • yes, as a parent I’ve realised the same thing. My son used to be rather aggressive and a little cruel (to his sister, nobody else), but he’s grown out of it, thank god. I think a huge majority of ‘evil’ people had rather bad upbringings, though (abuse, beatings, etc), so without that, maybe they wouldn’t have been evil? Although, there is an argument that abuse is genetic, ie the parents do it because they’re like that, and in turn the kids do it because they’re also like that.

  9. This is really such an interesting question. It really begs another question about what we are willing to admit about our children or children in general. My initial reaction is NO! But is that just my sheltered naive self talking? If someone is sick, are they evil? Can anyone who becomes truly evil really NOT be sick? Just because it isn’t curable doesn’t make it an illnes. This one is going to make me think. I’ll have to add this book to my list.

    • Thanks for the comment. I guess it begs the question of what we call evil. Evil is when a person has traits that are extremely anti-social, they’re not approved of by the society (humans) in which he/she lives, at the time and in the circumstances. In other times, other circumstances, other societies, other species, the same qualities might be deemed useful and normal. Humans have these qualities for a reason – but some humans just end up with too much ‘x’ – that’s my theory.

  10. Bit late with noticing this post, but I’ve met some pretty crappy kids over the years, but I don’t know if I’d say they were born evil. I’ve always favoured the nurture over genetics arguement, but that said, there are some people who seem naturally inclided towards behaving badly (but maybe that’s more toward an illness). One kid I used to see was called Rebecca and she literally was out of control, our family called her ‘Rebecca the Wrecker’. She would walk into a room and within minutes something would be smashed and she would be having a screaming tantrum in the corner. But I am convinced that was brought on by her parents who were so engrossed in themselves that they really didn’t invest any time in Rebecca. I didn’t see the film but based on what you have already described to me I don’t think I will. I’m still trying to get over the memory of my elder brother and the budgie eating incident (and no it wasn’t Steve it was some of his mates at Uni). Shoving things down a sink disposal system, if that was in the film well yuck, some things just shouldn’t be described as ‘artistic’.

    But then again I do also agree that some behaviours are deemed unacceptable due to our social norms, and yep you’re right, they may actually be acceptable in other contexts (I’m just glad I’m not living in one of the alternative realities/contexts).

    CS

    • Yeah, some kids are awful – Mr F was fairly bad, as I said. I think it’s genetics, but on top of that it can be an issue of control or handling. There are some humans, like some dogs, that need a strong hand, and others that need a light one. I like to think Mr F benefited from my light hand as well as his dad’s strong one and came out the lovely person that he is now because of both of us (but thank god his dad was there!).

  11. I want to read the book now! And I kind of want to see the film and kinda don’t. heheh.

    I was a frighteningly violent child. It’s a good thing I was too small to actually beat people up, except that one time with Ramon aka Ramona. I’ll write about that funny story one time.

    No Rose, I don’t believe in any one person who is 100% “evil”. That’s just my opinion. I do think some people from non-violent families come out surprisingly sadistic but there are so many factors that you’d have to consider.

    Just look at the lot of us! The human race as a whole–all the good and “evil” it’s created! H-bombs! Come on…

    • I think most of us have a corner that isn’t very nice. At least, I know I do – I’m sometimes very violent in my head, and sometimes I just don’t care much about things that I should care about..but, I don’t do anything awful to anyone, so I forgive myself. Lots of little kids are violent, they have poor impulse control. My niece works at a childcare centre and they’re always hitting and biting! And yeah – I want to hear the story about Ramon aka Ramona!

  12. haven’t watched the movie, but the trailer made me laugh like crazy…first of all, Tilda Swinton is as creepy beoutiful as they come, Ezra wht’s his name…same deal.but I’d do him if he was 40…and haven’t we ALL (mom’s anyway!) worried that we were inadvertantly raising the demon seed?

    • Yes, it would be pretty bad! I never used to get it when Mr F was very mean to Ms M, but then, that was sibling rivalry and he always loved her dearly at heart. It’d be just horrible to have a mini-Hitler about the place!

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