A doctor has his life turned upside down when he’s given an unthinkable choice after a boy, who he has taken under his wing, turns sinister.
Yorgos Lanthimos doesn’t ordinarily deal with the conventional. From Dogtooth in which three teenagers never leave their home because of overprotective parents to Lobster where a community of people are turned into an animal of their choosing if their search for love in a hotel fails after 45 days. He continues to comment on society and it’s rules with interesting storytelling techniques and smartly driven scripts. The Killing of a Sacred Deer may be his most narratively conventional film but it’s just as breathtaking to watch.
Colin Farrell plays a successful surgeon Steven Murphy, who is a family man, he commands a great deal of respect from the medical community. He and his wife Anna, played by Nicole Kidman live in a beautiful house with their children (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic). Farrell and Kidman’s chemistry is razor sharp, as they compliment each other’s performance. Their wry dialogue and awkward sexual tension is just as painful to watch as it is intriguing.
Steven has been spending time with a young boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan) with whom he has an unconventional friendship. The pair have lunch and take walks, it’s almost as if they are concealing an extra marital affair. It becomes clear that whilst these two are friends and Steven is protective over him, they don’t share the same bond as the other relationships in his life. Things take a turn when he threatens Steven’s family by informing him that his wife and two children will lose the use of their legs, have no appetite, bleed from the eyes and perish unless he is to kill one of them himself.
To look at previous work by Lanthimos, he creates odd ball characters in unusual situations. His work on Dogtooth got him noticed as an auteur of the strange after being nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2011 Oscars as well as receiving widespread praise for 2015’s The Lobster, also starring Farrell. He has a way of inserting an underlying menance into the body of his films, creating almost unintentionally comedic moments which make you cringe as you laugh. Killing of a Sacred Deer is no different, making you wince at the conversation concerning Farrell’s daughter getting her first period and raise a slightly awkward smile when he discusses watches with a colleague and why his is apparently better. You cannot take your eyes off these scenes even when speaking about mundane subjects, as the camera follows, thanks to Lanthimos’ regular cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, it creates a claustrophobic atmosphere which is trick well pulled off in these wide open spaces.
Farrell and Kidman’s relationship slowly crumbles as Martin continues his plan, its Keoghan who shines. His dead eyes, blunt talking and honesty seal his sinister character. As their lives become more intense, their actions are increasingly erratic leading to a conclusion only this director could concoct. Just a quick mention to Martin’s painfully single mother played by Alicia Silverstone who Steven meets whilst at their home. She comes across as sadly desperate and delivers the best line “I won’t let you leave until you’ve tried my tart.”
Like Dogtooth about over protective parents or Alps, helping those who have lost someone or Lobster, about societal pressures to find love, the plot is kept simple. Essentially this is a revenge story with a twist. The director’s signature unnerving style is nothing like anything you’ll see.
4 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.