Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp
Run Time: 121 mins
A Palme D’Or contender earlier in the year, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the latest by Greek director, Yorgos Lanthimos, who solidified himself as a talent to watch with his English language debut film, The Lobster, in 2015 and before that, the deeply unnerving Dogtooth. The Killing of a Sacred Deer sees the director reteaming with the ever-reliable Colin Farrell in the lead role as a cardiothoracic surgeon, Steve Murphy, who we first see completing open heart surgery in the film’s striking opening moments to Schubert’s ‘Stabat Mater’ in F minor. Murphy lives in a upper market, suburban area with his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children, Kim and Bob (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic). Unknown to his family at the beginning of the film and for reasons not disclosed even to the film’s audience, Steve is a mentor to a teenager called Martin, played by the rising talent Barry Keoghan who was excellent back in the Summer in Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk. Martin is presented from the outset as a deeply disturbed and challenged individual with a past and his relationship with Steve feels extremely unnatural and sickly.
As with his previous filmography, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a genuinely unnerving and memorable experience, rich with strong themes and disturbing imagery. It is a film that requires multiple rewatches, particularly as Lanthimos has rooted this narrative in a Euripidian Ancient Greek myth. I felt genuinely unclean after watching it and was left thinking about it for quite a while.
Lanthimos maintains his signature arch, one-note dialogue and the characters are again, irrational yet weirdly enticing to watch. Farrell continues to prove why he is one of the most reliable actors in the business and whilst I’m not the biggest fan of Nicole Kidman, she does a great job here. It is however, the younger actors, who perhaps fare the best with Keoghan, Cassidy and Suljic all turning in brilliant performances and being able to mesh their adolescent innocence and maturity, fused with Lanthimos’ characterisation and dialogue.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer often feels not too dissimilar from a body horror film with Lanthimos’ bold music choices, amplifying the sustained tension and grisliness throughout the film and the situation the characters find themselves entrapped within. This is heightened by Thimios Bakatakis’ cinematography, which allows the film to feel very claustrophobic and sickening at times but also, the shots in the city and the hospital have clear power over the characters, vast spaces in a labyrinthine maze that Lanthimos’ characters are trapped in. There is one particular shot of a character blindfolded and spinning which I found very difficult to watch but the execution and staging of this scene is perhaps one of the most memorable images of the year.
I’m not sure whether The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an enjoyable experience or not but it’s certainly a memorable one and it’s a film that I cannot wait to watch again. It’s films like this that challenge and question their audiences that keep me fascinated with the film industry. It’ll be a hard film to seek out as it’s in a limited release, but I would definitely recommend making the effort to see this. The Killing of a Sacred Deer cements Lanthimos as one of the most powerful voices of cinema of our time.