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May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Lynn Ramsay’s We’ve Got to Talk about Kevin, the first film to be screened in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, certainly got a lot of those who saw it talking. In particular, the performance of Tilda Swinton, who plays the devastated mother of a teenager who has shot up his school like the Columbine killers, is coming in for exceptional praise. A typical reaction is Sukhdev Sandhu’s in the London Telegraph, who writes, “Her face is hard to take your eyes off: a picture of harrowed misery; a scene-of-the-crime landscape you study and assess like a detective carrying out a procedural; a mask constructed to face a hostile world in the aftermath of the slayings.” And Kirk Honeycutt writes in the Hollywood Reporter: “With this film, Tilda Swinton establishes herself as the one to beat for best-actress honors at 2011 Cannes.” Much has been made of the fact that the festival this year has spotlighted the work of female directors and given the opening slot in the competition to one. In its “24 Frames” blog today (Thursday), the Los Angeles Times describes the film this way: “A tragedy in multiple keys, difficult to watch but impossible to turn away from, Kevin reinforces Ramsay’s reputation as a director in complete control of all aspects of the medium.” Peter Bradshaw of Britain’s Guardian newspaper suggests that Kevin is the kind of film that distinctly benefits from a woman’s touch. “Ramsay’s superb film reminds us that someone does the dirty, dreary work of explaining, feeling unhappy, going on prison visits and generally carrying the can [bearing the blame]. And that may well be the mother,” he writes. “As Swinton’s Eva wearily washes off the red paint that someone has splattered over her porch, the movie wanly restates the undramatic truth: the mess must be cleaned up somehow, and it isn’t the men who wind up doing it.” Like that one, some of the most gripping scenes in the film are the ones without dialogue (another example: a flashback scene of Swinton with her killer son Kevin as a baby, screaming as she attempts to quiet him — unsuccessfully.) At a news conference following the screening Swinton remarked, “I’m of the belief that cinema went downhill ever since people began talking in it.”