One year and 49 miles: that’s the difference between fiction and reality in one case of a school massacre.

The 2011 film “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was filmed in Stamford, Conn., and released Dec. 9 that year. A year and five days later, Adam Lanza, a young shooter, killed 26 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, less than 50 miles away.

Struck my having taken up archery, a visiting friend flagged for me the movie, where Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly pair off as parents torn apart by their difficult and ultimately sociopathic son, Kevin.

The mass murders he commits in his home and high school are done with a bow and arrow, which is a thought-provoking take on our almost unique national sickness of school killings that takes guns out of the equation for a moment. The human factor, of course, is just as if not more critical.

I remember two things in particular about Sandy Hook:

First, I sat in church two days later with then FBI director Robert Mueller, a co-congregant, and for the first time ever really noticed him. Between prayers, I looked at him across the aisle and thought, “Poor man, he really needs to do something about all this, but what action can he really take?”

Yes, in retrospect, that thought was rather rich with irony, but that’s beside the point.

Second, I was struck some days later by a viral blog-post entitled: “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” where the author shared her experience with her bipolar son whose childhood was marked with rages and tantrums.

Lanza’s real mother was his first victim, before the killer proceeded to the school where she volunteered. Amateur psychologists had a field day with that.

Both Mueller and the mother were seemingly helpless in the face of real evil. The photographs of Adam Lanza that circulated in the days after the killing depicted a child with chillingly empty yet penetrating eyes, almost identical to those of his fictional forerunner, Kevin.

More than a year before Adam Lanza’s mom became posthumously famous, Swinton does a superb job portraying her. Exasperated, exhausted, resigned and hopeless, she is also essentially alone since the father refuses to admit there is anything wrong with their clearly sadistic son.

The only moments where she and Kevin really connect involve violence, first when she accidentally breaks his arm and later when she reads to him about Robin Hood’s archery skill.

Similarly, news reports suggest Lanza’s mother bought him guns in a desperate attempt to connect.

Blessed with a peaceable and empathetic son, I can never know the experience of the parent of a profoundly troubled child.

After the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida, my son became an active participant in Students Demand Action, causing me to re-think my unbridled defense of the Second Amendment. But my own experience has shown that banning all guns will not prevent the severely mentally ill from lashing out randomly and murderously. At best, it will limit their effectiveness.

The difference between fact and fiction in this instance seems to me that while Swinton concludes Kevin is a bad and dangerous seed, a real life parent never gives up on their child, and never loses hope that they become more human.

Again, of course, I’m simply imagining, but having seen others’ struggles, I think there may be something to this.

Some argue the power dynamic between parent and child these days may be a factor. I don’t remember the same degree of bargaining and accommodation that is common-place today from my own childhood, but then again we all had to walk 10 miles in the snow to get to school, right?

An answer to the evil of violent youth lashing out on society may be elusive. But one thing that might help until that answer is found is making those who live with the threat feel less alone.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.