The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp
Following up his Oscar nominated film The Lobster, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos continues to stun and impress cinephiles with his metaphorical cinematic creations. If The Lobster (also starring Colin Farrell) was Yorgos + comedy, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is Yorgos + horror. Even looking at his work, prior to becoming a more mainstream indie draw, his subject matter is always reality based with a sharp twist of fantasy. His work asks the audience questions, most they likely prefer not to answer. There is still a dark, underlining sense of comedy here, mostly to do with the characters “matter of fact” speaking, but ‘Deer’ evolves into an unsettling experience that will leave the viewers with much to process and discuss.
Something is not right with Martin (Keoghan), a 16-year-old boy who obsessively visits Dr. Steven Murphy (Farrell) at the hospital. Steven’s relationship with Martin is kept secret until he introduces the strange young man to his wife Anna (Kidman), and their two children Kim (Cassidy) and Bob (Suljic). “Bob just started piano lessons,” Anna explains. “And Kim started menstruating,” Steven adds. “You both should come over for dinner sometime,” the couple exchange casual banter with colleagues at a party. Their way of speaking is very factual, with little to no subtly or mixing of words. The children are no different, Bob asking to see Martin’s armpit hair on his first visit, and Kim falling instantly for this curious new face. When both children fall ill, Steven and Anna realize there are forces at work beyond medical science, and all fingers point to Martin.
The first act offers so many puzzling questions for the audience, yet it’s so interesting you find yourself immersed in the peculiarity of everything.
Where The Lobster started out strong and fell apart in the second half, The Killing of a Sacred Deer only gets stronger towards the conclusion. Lanthimos and his editor create suspense very subtly over the course of the film. Little to no musical score is used in the beginning, giving way to the most bizarre and on edge sounds you will hear in a feature film this season. The first act offers so many puzzling questions for the audience, yet it’s so interesting you find yourself immersed in the peculiarity of everything. The movie does answer most questions by the end, still leaving you with enough to debate. Lanthimos filmmaking technique seems more assured and focused here. The Killing of the Sacred Deer could be compared with mother!, but this is far more organized and sequential.
The performances hold the film together, even at its most grotesque moments. Still, there isn’t really a stand out here, everyone ebbs and flows to Yorgos Lanthimos words and creation. Dunkirk’s Keoghan is the most memorable, due to the fact that every word and stare he gives makes the audience feel more uncomfortable every time he appears on screen. Both Kidman and Farrell (who also appeared together in this summer’s The Beguiled) give themselves completely to the roles, which are as unflattering as they are immersive. Alicia Silverstone appears in one scene that lands the pictures funniest moment where she shouts, “I won’t let you leave until you have tried my tart!”.
‘Deer’ is everything ‘mother!’ failed to be, as Lanthimos hones his skills as a filmmaker.