Ezra Miller is 18 and was yesterday on the Moet Beach in Cannes posing for a snap with his screen ‘mother’, Tilda Swinton.
Tilda bravely staggered through the sand in her Roger Vivier stilettos and Ezra hugged her. Ezra’s on-screen ‘father’, John C. Reilly — who was wearing a smart straw hat — soon joined them.
They are blissfully happy off-screen, but when you see them in Lynne Ramsay’s cinematic masterpiece We Need To Talk About Kevin, inspired by Lionel Shriver’s best-selling novel, you realise there’s a problem in this family unit.
The BBC Films production — the only British movie in competition — has become a festival sensation and is already being tipped as a major contender for the Palme d’Or.
It’s a visual feast of a picture, with Swinton on magnificent form as the mother, Eva, who can’t bring herself to love her son. She doesn’t even have to say it — it’s written on her face.
When she’s carrying the boy, the lines of irritation are in every crease. When she goes into labour, a doctor tells her: ‘Eva, stop resisting.’ But she doesn’t. She keeps resisting the boy, and as he grows older he picks up on this and punishes her.
Or, as Ezra put it to me yesterday: ‘He just wants his mother’s love and attention and he hits on a particular way of doing it.’
Those who have read Shriver’s novel will know how Kevin gets Eva’s attention, and it’s pretty traumatic.
Director Ramsay takes care not to over-exploit what it is that Kevin does. However, the colour red is evident throughout, as if to signpost that something shocking will happen.
I’m not sure I’ve seen a screen performance better than Swinton’s in a long time, while Miller — who I saw at the Sundance Festival and at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival — is one to watch.
He told me he got sent the script two years ago and ‘freaked out’ over it. ‘I started chasing it like an animal, then it dropped off the scene for a while. Then it came back, and I went after it again,’ he said.
Ezra had to prove to Ramsay he could capture Kevin, and she was right to pick him. ‘From the day a child is born, that child is hyper-aware of stuff going on and often it’s way beneath the surface. That’s why child development is a very delicate process. When it goes wrong, it can be devastating,’ Ezra told me.
He also added that all of us have the potential to become a Kevin. ‘To my horror, I do feel a little connected to Kevin — always did. It’s a little scary.’
Well, that’s why he’s so good in the role. Thankfully, he has a lot of culture to occupy his mind. As well as acting, he sings and plays drums for indie band Sons Of An Illustrious Father, and their second album, Big Brown Barn And other Short Tales, is due out soon.
We Need To Talk About Kevin opens in the UK in the autumn.