Playing Mother to a Teenage Killer, Tilda Swinton Sets Cannes Abuzz

Tilda Swinton in 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'

The talk in Cannes is that Britain’s Tilda Swinton may walk away with a Best Actress trophy at the closing night ceremony.

The actress stars in We Need to Talk About Kevin — a disturbing family drama set in America — directed by Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay.

Swinton plays a guilt-ridden mother whose life is forever changed when her son goes on a high school killing spree.

The film’s focus isn’t on the massacre but the aftermath. As Swinton puts it: “The film’s about post-traumatic stress, which to my mind, is about working out what you feel about something really horrendous that’s happened in your life.”

Swinton says the picture isn’t social commentary. But she explains: “It’s about looking at the really uncomfortable things that people do not talk about, like the idea of a woman who can’t connect with her child, or the idea of a son who needs to murder in order to get his mother’s attention. This is really uncomfortable stuff.”

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of four films in the official competition at Cannes directed by a woman, a festival record.

Not everyone is impressed with the scorecard. Swinton says, “I look forward to the time when people are saying, ‘Isn’t it amazing? There are four men?’ It’s an advance on three, and it’s an advance on two, and it’s an advance on none. I think it’s great.”

If Swinton does win an award at Cannes, it will add to her collection of trophies. She won an Oscar three years ago for her role in the crime drama Michael Clayton.

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Tom Brook‘s reports on cinema can be seen every Tuesday and Thursday morning on BBC America.