We Need to Talk About Kevin is Lynne Ramsay’s third feature film. She made her debut with Ratcatcher in 1999, which she followed up with Morvern Callar in 2002, and now in 2011 We Need to Talk About Kevin is being released. That’s nine years between her second and third films. It seems like quite a while.
To make an unfair comparison, Woody Allen made nine films during that same period. To make an even more unfair comparison, the Beatles were together for nine years and managed to record 12 albums, 13 EPs and star in four films. Between 2002 and 2011 Ramsay has made one 112-minute feature, which works out at about a minute per month. The obvious question to ask is, well, what was she doing during all that time?
The story behind the answer is a torturous one. Years spent working on an adaptation of The Lovely Bones were for nothing when the book became a big success and the project was taken from her to be given to Peter Jackson. After recovering and slowly adapting We Need to Talk About Kevin, the production’s funding fell through, requiring a complete rewrite. Over nine years setback after setback beset Ramsay, and the result is nearly a decade lost to the making of a single film.
Was it worth it? Perhaps. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a stunning work: an intimate character study that vividly captures the painful repetitions of memory. For its use of colour and textures alone it should be recommended, never mind its performances and compelling narrative. But is that enough for nine years of a person’s life?
It seems a tragedy that through misfortune and a lack of support that a filmmaker as talented as Lynne Ramsay had to slog through molasses in order to make one film. Unfortunately Ramsay’s troubles are not uncommon, and whilst she’s an extreme example, it’s a depressingly frequent occurrence for U.K. filmmakers with unique visions to be hampered in such a way. The most creative years of many filmmakers’ working lives are lost endlessly waiting for money. The bodies of work they end up creating are impressive but woefully small.
Unless you happen to be the head of a sizeable film funding body, sadly there’s not a great deal the average cinemagoer can do about the situation. Except, of course, by expressing support by actually going to see films like We Need to Talk About Kevin. It’s unlikely that the film will unseat Johnny English Reborn from the top of the Box Office when it’s released tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a big enough hit for Ramsay to continue to make such striking, moving films. Here’s hoping the next one arrives before food comes in pill form and we’re all wearing silver jumpsuits.
We Need To Talk About Kevin is being screened as part of the 55th BFI London Film Festival, and is on general release UK wide.
All photos: BBC Films and Kevin production © 2010 photo Nicole Rivelli