Metascore
68

Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 37
  2. Negative: 5 out of 37
  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Jan 25, 2012
    100
    As a portrait of a deteriorating state of mind, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful film.
  2. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Dec 8, 2011
    100
    It's a domestic horror story that literally gets to us where we live, a disturbing tale told with uncompromising emotionality and great skill by filmmaker Lynne Ramsay.
  3. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Dec 6, 2011
    100
    The movie toggles between two periods-before and after a catastrophe-and, were it not for Swinton's magnetism, it would be unbearable. Instead, you'll want to stay for the wallop.
  4. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Mar 22, 2012
    91
    Watching it isn't easy, but it is definitely worth having waited for.
  5. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Dec 8, 2011
    90
    Ramsey's film has its own strengths. We Need To Talk About Kevin doesn't just bring you to the outskirts of a parent's worst nightmare; this fever dream of guilt and loss takes you straight inside.
  6. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Nov 29, 2011
    90
    There are so many great things happening on almost every level of this movie, from Swinton's haunting, magnetic and tremendously vulnerable performance, which is absolutely free of condescension to the suburban American wife-ness of her character, to the many unsettling individual moments.
  7. Reviewed by: Leslie Felperin
    Nov 29, 2011
    90
    An exquisitely realized adaptation of Lionel Shriver's bestselling novel. In a rigorously subtle performance as a woman coping with the horrific damage wrought by her psychopathic son, Tilda Swinton anchors the dialogue-light film with an expressiveness that matches her star turn in "I Am Love."
  8. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Mar 9, 2012
    88
    Refusing to hold our hands, director Lynne Ramsay ("Morvern Callar") pushes far beyond the boundaries of topical drama into the realm of the surreal.
  9. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Jan 13, 2012
    88
    Acting doesn't get much better than the subtly brilliant display put on by Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
  10. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Dec 8, 2011
    88
    A meditation on the pain suffered by a mother when her child turns out to be a monster, We Need to Talk about Kevin is the perfect tonic for holiday cheer.
  11. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Jan 11, 2012
    83
    In its best sequences, Ramsay puts her duress in dazzlingly visual terms, collapsing the past and present in an associative rush of red-streaked images and piercingly vivid moments out of time.
  12. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jan 26, 2012
    80
    It's not easy to make such a downbeat movie compelling, but that's what Ramsay, with great help from her star, has done.
  13. Reviewed by: Pete Hammond
    Dec 9, 2011
    80
    Uncomfortably tense but worth savoring, particularly because of Tilda Swinton's devastating lead performance.
  14. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Dec 8, 2011
    80
    Ms. Ramsay, with ruthless ingenuity, creates a deeper dread and a more acute feeling of anticipation by allowing us to think we know what is coming and then shocking us with the extent of our ignorance.
  15. Reviewed by: Liz Beardsworth
    Nov 29, 2011
    80
    A triumph for Ramsay anchored by terrific performances. Guaranteed to haunt you for days, and possibly prompt a rethink on your position on parenthood.
  16. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Feb 2, 2012
    78
    It's a disturbing film on many, many levels, but beautifully shot (by Seamus McGarvey) and shot through with a horrific sense of false hope. The kid is not all right.
  17. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Mar 1, 2012
    75
    Lynne Ramsay's thoughtful, unnerving film works its strange power over viewers who are likely to find themselves as compelled as repelled by its fatally flawed key players.
  18. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Mar 1, 2012
    75
    Tilda Swinton is the star of We Need to Talk About Kevin, and her performance is so complex and volcanic and transfixing that all of the film's flaws melt away.
  19. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Jan 28, 2012
    70
    Ramsay seems to be seriously intent on probing the outer limits of a mother's love and forgiveness, but the boy (played by a trio of child actors) is so unremittingly evil that the movie begins to feel like a grotesque remake of that old John Ritter comedy "Problem Child" (1990).
  20. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Dec 9, 2011
    70
    The film's bluntness doesn't diminish the power of the nature-versus-nurture questions Eva's asking herself. Or of Swinton's harrowing portrait of parental guilt.
  21. Reviewed by: Kirk Honeycutt
    Nov 29, 2011
    70
    This is, in a way, a real horror film about everyday things and a disconnected family.
  22. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Mar 24, 2012
    67
    Next to Swinton's excellent portrayal of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, the movie belongs to the two Kevins, young actors with matching arched eyebrows and sullen expressions.
  23. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Dec 7, 2011
    67
    The movie is creepy, but it has no texture or depth. It's like "The Omen" directed by Miranda July.
  24. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Dec 8, 2011
    65
    We Need to Talk About Kevin is a little too facile in the way it sets up the horrific climax: Just one look at this kid and you know he's trouble, yet no one besides mom can see it.
  25. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Mar 8, 2012
    63
    Fragmented, dreamlike, a whir of memories and misery, We Need to Talk About Kevin is unsettling, but also somehow unnecessary.
  26. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Nov 29, 2011
    63
    Ezra Miller's sneering, absurdly precocious evil-child performance makes him just another bad-seed horror villain.
  27. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Dec 12, 2011
    60
    Even in the film's weaker stretches, the fierce presence of Tilda Swinton made it impossible to tear my eyes away.
  28. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Dec 8, 2011
    60
    This is a mother's tale, and in Swinton's expert hands, Eva must ultimately deal with the fallout from an uncomfortable truth: She just never liked her kid.
  29. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Mar 22, 2012
    50
    Critics starved for thoughtful movies will often mistake the will for the deed. A serious film about an important subject seems like an important film, even if the effort falls far short of the target. So it is with We Need to Talk About Kevin.
  30. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Jan 26, 2012
    50
    All the movie has, really, is Tilda Swinton acting up a storm, which is more than enough for some. For me, given what's up with the rest of the picture, it's not quite.
  31. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jan 14, 2012
    50
    It's a creepy and disturbing movie, but there's not a lot going on behind people's eyes. The soullessness lacks soul.
  32. Reviewed by: Karina Longworth
    Dec 6, 2011
    50
    By treating Kevin's evil as a mystery to be solved, Ramsay only succeeds in making what was once allusive banal.
  33. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Dec 9, 2011
    38
    In this pretentious art-house downer version of "The Bad Seed," the only surprise is that the folks didn't ship the little monster off to the looney bin before he reached puberty.
  34. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Dec 4, 2011
    38
    The purpose of Lynne Ramsay's hodgepodge approach is to distract us from the flimsiness of a story that suggests a snide art-house take on "The Omen."
  35. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Mar 8, 2012
    25
    Ramsay delivers an overdirected, conceptually obnoxious art film that's torture to sit through, listen to, and think about.
  36. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Mar 1, 2012
    25
    It is a very good performance in a very bad movie.
  37. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Nov 30, 2011
    0
    This is the most unwatchable horror movie masquerading as social comment I have seen this year.
User Score
7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 108 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 34
  2. Negative: 4 out of 34
  1. Jan 21, 2012
    10
    Less a "Bad Seed" rehash than an indictment of contemporary parenting skills, "Kevin" made my skin crawl on many levels. The outer need for perfection while the interior is crumbling, the idea that because a couple CAN have a child, they should, the unwillingness to actually TALK about Kevin... all of this leads to the creation of monster--but that creation is inevitable. Far smarter than most will give this film for, see it and watch it carefully. Until the final, horrific moments, is Kevin the monster, or are his parents? Who created whom? This is a chilling film guaranteed to haunt, and Swinton's performance is perfection. Understated and genuine, she is genius. Full Review »
  2. Mar 3, 2013
    8
    A movie where the horror has a purpose to expose the extent of a mother's love. The style is top-notch and the substance is unique. Did I learn anything from it? Well, if I didn't know already, it'd show me an example of how mothers can forgive everything and always love their child, and that it's one of the true graces in life. Full Review »
  3. Jun 1, 2012
    5
    I found this film kind of a mess. Arty in its silences and temporal jumps, artless in its sledgehammer symbolism (an alternate title could be "We Need to Talk About Kevin's Intake of Food That Looks Like Blood and Body Parts"), the film asks much of viewers but doesn't reward our patience. Anyone who can't predict exactly what will happen--including the weapon and a rough body count--is in the next theater viewing a different movie; I kept watching because some of these "oops, wrong theater" folk wrote reviews in major papers, reviews promising a big surprise. Oh well. But yes, the acting is wonderful, and the nature/nurture question genuinely fascinating. With a stronger script and fewer pretensions, this film could have been truly compelling. Full Review »