We Need to Talk About Kevin triumphs at London Film Festival

Critics reward Lynne Ramsay's interpretation of Lionel Shriver's novel.

The cinematic adaptation of Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin has been named Best Film at the London Film Festival Awards.

Reviewing the film for the New Statesman, Ryan Gilbey wrote:

Readers of Shriver's novel were divided between those who saw the character as a monster and those who distrusted his mother's control of the novel. It's this tension the picture exploits, rather skilfully.

Starring Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly and Ezra Miller, the film recounts the events leading up to a high-school massacre and was directed by Glaswegian Lynne Ramsay. John Maddon, chair of the jury, described the film as "a sublime, uncompromising tale of the torment that can stand in the place of love". It was singled out ahead of a strong shortlist which included Terrence Davis's The Deep Blue Sea and Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist.

Ramsay, whose previous films include Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar, is no stranger to awards having previously been the recipient of two Cannes Prix de Jury prizes. She was hailed by Tanya Seghatchian, head of the BFI Film Fund, as "one of the great cinematic visionaries". We Need to Talk About Kevin is her third full-length feature.

BBC/Chris Christodoulou
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Proms 2016: Violinist Ray Chen was the star of a varied show

The orchestra soaked up his energy in Bruch's first violin concerto to end on a triumphal note. 

Music matters, but so does its execution. This was the lesson of a BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus programme which combined both a premiere of a composition and a young violinist’s first performance at the Proms. 

The concert, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, opened with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic fantasy The Tempest, a lesser-known sibling to his Romeo and Juliet overture. The orchestra got off to a fidgety start, with some delayed entries, but fell into line in time for the frenetic chromatic runs that drive the piece. The end, a muted pizzicato, was suitably dramatic. 

Another nature-inspired piece followed – Anthony Payne’s composition for chorus and orchestra, Of Land, Sea and Sky. Payne drew on his memory of watching of white horses appearing to run across water, as well as other visual illusions. At the world premiere, the piece began promisingly. The chorus rolled back and forth slowly over scurrying strings with an eerie singing of “horses”. But the piece seemed to sink in the middle, and not even the curiosity of spoken word verse was enough to get the sinister mood back. 

No doubt much of the audience were drawn to this programme by the promise of Bruch violin concerto no. 1, but it was Ray Chen’s playing that proved to be most magnetic. The young Taiwanese-Australian soloist steered clear of melodrama in favour of a clean and animated sound. More subtle was his attention to the orchestra. The performance moved from furious cadenza to swelling sound, as if all players shared the same chain of thought. Between movements, someone coughed. I hated them. 

Ray Chen in performance. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Chen’s playing had many audience members on their feet, and only an encore appeased them. It was his first time at the Proms, but he'll be back. 

The orchestra seemed to retain some of his energy for Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region. Composed between 1904 and 1906, this is a setting of lines by the US poet Walt Whitman on death, and the idea of rebirth.

The orchestra and chorus blended beautifully in the delicate, dark opening. By the end, this had transformed into a triumphal arc of sound, in keeping with the joyful optimism of Whitman’s final verse: “We float/In Time and Space.” 

This movement from hesitancy to confident march seemed in many ways to capture the spirit of the concert. The programme had something for everyone. But it was Chen’s commanding performance that defined it.