Review The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) by Jonathan Berk
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is amazing and yet is definitely not for everyone. From the opening image, Lanthimos wants the audience to have an idea of what they’re in for. His previous film, The Lobster, seemed to polarize its audience with some finding its dark humor to make the film a comedy, while others saw it as a sad drama of a dystopian world. It is, of course, both of those things and I loved it. Sacred Deer still manages to have moments that are so absurd one has to laugh, but the drama and horror is much too real to confuse this film as a comedy.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a horrifyingly terrific time at the movies
Doctor Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) has taken Martin (Barry Keoghan), a son of a former patient, under his wing. He invites him to his home to meet his wife (Nicole Kidman), daughter (Raffey Cassidy), and son (Sunny Suljic). Martin’s true intentions are revealed and Steven is faced with an impossible choice or losing everything he loves.
The performances in this film are amazing by everyone involved. Farrell’s character is quite different than his lead in The Lobster, but he’s as vibrant as ever. The dialogue that Lanthimos and his writing partner, Efthymis Filippou, produce never feels natural (it’s not meant to, of course) and is delivered heavily monotoned. It’s something that with weaker actors would probably wreck the film, but Farrell, Kidman, Cassidy, Suljic, and Keoghan deliver it expertly. The world in the film resembles ours in most ways, but the odd speech patterns appear to be a sign that it isn’t quite ours.
Keoghan really gets to shine in this film. He was in Dunkirk earlier this year and did a fine job with the role he had, but Martin is a much more important and interesting character. The mannerisms the character exhibits play with the idea that this young boy is in the midst of something extremely adult. He slowly takes the power in the relationship with Steven and the performance from Keoghan makes the transformation completely believable. There are moments where it would seem his character had lost his control; yet there is never any question to him or in the audience’s interpretation of the character that he is the one with the power.
Of course, the themes of revenge that are the backbone of this film create numerous moments of sheer horror. The opening shot is of a beating heart during an actual operation filmed for this movie. There are other scenes in the film that made me look away or cringe with horrific anticipation, and that’s without even getting into the immense amount of emotional stress that the audience experiences when they empathize with Steven. He’s confronted with what can only be described as any parent’s worst nightmare.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a film that is expertly crafted, delightfully horrific, and emotionally traumatizing. Film lovers should definitely check this out, but it will certainly be polarizing. A critic who attended my screening asked a second critic who’d exclaimed his love of the movie during the credits if he also liked snuff films. With that disclaimer out of the way, The Killing of a Sacred Deer earns the Must See rating.