The Scottish director Lynne Ramsay doesn't seek artificial sympathy for her characters, and in "We Need to Talk About Kevin," any sympathy her characters receive comes only after a hard-fought battle.
The movie starts by introducing us to Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton), who is having a pretty good day after landing a job in a travel agency. That's when a woman walks up to her, sees her smiling and slaps her across the face. Later, in the grocery store, another woman breaks a dozen eggs in her shopping cart. Eva takes these indignities and swallows them, because she knows why her neighbors hate her so much.
Bouncing backward and forward in time, Ramsay and co-writer Rory Kinnear (adapting Lionel Shriver's novel) take us deep into Eva's life. In chronological order, she's a carefree young travel writer in love with Franklin (John C. Reilly), then she's married and pregnant, then she's a harried mother trying to raise their son Kevin. And it's here, in raising Kevin, that Eva sees how much has gone wrong.