Released: 3rd November 2017
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
The loss of a loved one. A wretched aspect of life that is inescapable. As a loving family member or friend, the inquisition is great. Various questions consuming and playing on our grief-stricken minds.
Could the disease or condition have been detected earlier? Could the doctors and nurses have done any more to prolong one’s life? Through Barry Keoghan’s Martin, the psychological ramifications of such tragedy anchor this latest Yorgos Lanthimos effort, that will perturb and disturb you.
The Killing Of A Sacred Deer sees its director switch from the peculiar dystopian romance of The Lobster to frightening familial dysfunction, almost reveling in making surgical incisions on the ties of the highly regarded Murphy family. Colin Farrell is Steven, a successful cardiovascular surgeon grown accustomed to a sophisticated suburban lifestyle with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), shaggy-haired son Bob (Sunny Suljic) and all-singing daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy).
A protagonist that you would expect to be calm and collected under mounting pressure. Yet his sense of conversation both at home and in the workplace feels concentrated, bristling with nervous energy. Enhanced by his unlikely relationship with sixteen-year-old Martin (Keoghan). Still reeling from the death of his father, his breathy voice may exude innocence. Yet it serves as a chilling contradiction to the growing influence he is set to have on them.
Beginning with a gnarly close-up of an open heart beating as the film’s immersive orchestral score swells, you could certainly interpret it as a metaphor, with Lanthimos allowing the sickness to seep into the film’s narrative soul.
An appreciation of beautiful hands. Bizarre interplay about facial and body hair. The cold capture of a female form spread across a bed. The film’s studying of the human condition is unnervingly and thrillingly skewered, carving out its notion of us being merely disposable when pushed to our breaking point, in a piercing matter-of-fact fashion.
Lanthimo’s visual choices accentuate this. Slightly elevated camerawork of its sprawling hospital corridors implying that greater purpose and status of the profession, seemingly overthrown by the hellish high angle shots as people collapse to the ground, almost like the ghost of Martin’s father is bearing down on them.
The traditional rigidness of a a mid-shot in a supposedly stable family home. Curved in its composition, representing a distinct lack of direction in the collective moral compass of these protagonists. Creating a claustrophobic sense of menace to juxtapose its withdrawn approach.
The calm and clarity in Nicole Kidman’s terrific showing as Anna, only heightens the indecisive and trivial demeanour of Colin Farrell’s Steven, who is superb in capturing the character’s fragile masculinity. But the real star of this heady horror show is Barry Keoghan’s Martin, whose portrayal of this deeply troubled and traumatised social introvert is truly compelling.
All achieved with a wicked sense of humour that permeates its ever-escalating disturbia, that will leave you not listening to an Ellie Goulding track in the same way again. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is a surreal masterwork, that solidifies why Yorgos Lanthimos’ career is in such rude health.