Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

In 2011, Tilda Swinton began to get rave reviews from the horror-thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin as the long-suffering mother who was first mentally tortured by her son while raising him and then is ultimately vilified by the public who use her as a scapegoat when her son commits the most heinous crime. Leading into the awards season, Swinton managed to get herself a Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nomination, essentially “guaranteeing” her Oscar nomination. However, when the Leading Actress category was announced, critics and fans were astonished by her blatant snub by the Academy.

Tilda Swinton’s performance as Eva Khatchadourian, who raises a son who grows up to become a serial killer, is a performance that can barely be described with words. Essentially her performance is a dual one with half her performance being shown in a contemporary setting as the victim of socialized hatred and the other, done through flashbacks, when she was a mother to Kevin. Throughout these flashbacks, we see Eva’s realization that Kevin is evil, yet nobody will listen to her. The film also examines her relationship with her husband (John C. Reilly), who believes their son to be a normal child and cannot comprehend Eva’s reception for Kevin, seeing her as being an unfair mother. Yet what makes Tilda Swinton’s performance so utterly profound was her ability to have her character endure continuous abuse from all those around her, yet convincingly portray Eva as believing she deserves such treatment. The level of complexity Swinton put into her performance as Eva Khatchadourian makes for one of the most intriguing characters in film in recent years.

This particular Oscar snub can only be justified with the rationale that the film was too independent to truly give Swinton a chance of being nominated for Lead Actress. Swinton was snubbed in favor of Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a much more popular, mainstream film. It is in instances like this where it becomes clear that being nominated requires a production studio to have the necessary finances to adequately promote their actors to being nominated. Yet what is more telling with Tilda Swinton’s snub is that her precursor nominations with the Golden Globes, SAGs and BAFTAs were undoubtedly due to clout from her performance, which means if she had been nominated, she would have been a fierce contender in that year’s Oscars.

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