Based on a novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver, this begins with people including our protagonist Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) having a fantastic time at the Valencian Tomatina festival, splattering themselves with tomatoes and pouring juice everywhere, but as the camera settles on an aerial shot of the crowd the soundtrack starts to change to a darker tone and we hear more troubling sounds of crying and screaming and suddenly the lashings of red tomato juice suggests some impending doom.
We cut to the modern day and Eva’s car and house have been splattered with red paint and she is numbly accepting of this punishment. As she sets about trying to clean the paint off, we relive the time between the two events in a series of flashbacks, with the red motif popping up along the way to remind us that this is heading in a bad direction.
We establish pretty swiftly that Eva and her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) have a testing son called Kevin who immediately seems to take a disliking to his Mother and she doesn’t know how to cope with it. At times very patronising, she tries but tires of Kevin. Tilda Swinton is excellent as the Mother and some of the actors playing Kevin (particularly Rocky Duer and Japser Newell who are very young) portray incredible evil. Despite what the title might suggest, though, the film is a character study of the Mother as much as anything else and Tilda Swinton features in (I think) every scene.
Most impressive of all is the cinematography – the choice of shot, the framing and the lighting are all a joy to watch. There are moments of dark humour, moments that’ll leave you outraged and moments that’ll shock you and at the end you’ll think – wow, that was a very good film.
4 on 5
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reiley, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rocky Duer
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
UK Release: 21st October 2011