We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) summons startling cinema from Lionel Shriver’s bestseller about a mother whose son has perpetrated the unthinkable. As Eva, the shell-shocked woman struggling to absolve herself from the sins of her progeny, Tilda Swinton – all capacious eye-bags and limp black locks – is at her haunted and haunting best, making the film’s present-tense scenes, where she stoically endures the hostility of her community as a sort of self-flagellation, uncomfortably compulsive viewing.

Brilliantly reworking the novel’s epistolary format for the screen as a complex, imbricating mosaic of Eva’s vividly subjectified memories (if the liberal lashings of crimson throughout at first smack as unsubtle, know that’s entirely by design), this is a master-class in novel-to-film adaptation which richly rewards repeat viewing.

Gerard Elson works at Readings St Kilda.