"There is no point. That's the point," Kevin points out. Nihilism and annihilation reign in Lynne Ramsay's suitably harrowing adaptation of Lionel Shriver's novel.
The Scottish auteur daubs this blood-soaked nature/nurture tale in red – children's balloons, furniture, a tomato festival in Latin America, the abusive paint thrown over a demonised mother's walls – and she adeptly allows the viewer to imagine most of the horrific violence that unfolds.
Career-minded Eva (Tilda Swinton) and drippy Franklin (John C Reilly) have spawned a psychopath, Kevin (Jaspar Newell). As a child, the dead-eyed terror refuses to speak or be potty-trained; as a teenager (played with a spiteful lop-sided grin by Ezra Miller), he's keen on archery and is sadistic to his little sister. Smart and stern Eva has the measure of her ghastly son early on. Her foolish husband (the role does Reilly no favours) is oblivious to his sinister mind games and acts of horror.
Ramsay's direction is typically inventive, flipping this unsettling story around in time, but this is Swinton's film – we see everything through her haunted eyes – and it's baffling that she hasn't been nominated for an Oscar. She thoroughly inhabits the role of the guilt-ridden mother and her performance is typically bold. Not a date movie, or a film for expecting parents, or for those of a nervous disposition.
It's a grim business.