It’s been two long years since Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, and If you’ve been hungry for another serving of his signature style settle in for a wicked edge-of-your-seat delight, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a feast for the senses.
Steven (Colin Farrell) is a brilliant surgeon with a loving wife (Nicole Kidman) and two talented children, but his life falls apart when a friendship with a teenage boy turns sinister and Steven has to make an unthinkable decision.
Acclaimed Greek director Lanthimos (Dogtooh) won Best Screenplay (well tied at least) with regular collaborator Efthymis Filippou and was nominated for Palme d-Or at Cannes this year. Fair enough too for the auteur’s first American effort continues his startling original work.
He’s paired up again with The Lobster alum Colin Farrell, a man totally underrated for his knack for black humour (In Bruges is still one of my favourites), and just like The Lobster underplays it well as the teetotaller heart surgeon. What’s a surprise is Nicole Kidman, playing a doctor herself, who has an underlying dark streak that keeps you guessing to her true motives.
Barry Keoghan, who brought tears as George in Dunkirk, continues his great form as the gets-under-your-skin Martin. Like a possessed Forrest Gump his simple nature is unsettling as hell.
While some might find Lanthimos’s style wearing thin – especially his deadpan dialogue – it’s his ability to keep you on edge that makes his film so electric. My nerves were shred for large chunks, only broken by absurdly funny moments – Stephen’s daughter ‘singing’ Elle Goulding’s Light it Up or Stephen and Martin and Martin’s mother (a nice cameo from Alicia Silverstone) watching Groundhog Day.
The shocking opening scene, the jarring score that kicks in in the most mundane scenes, and an arsenal of Kurbickian camera angles push that feeling of unease. Lanthimos’s regular cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis never goes for the norm, following Stephen from high above as he navigates long corridors, shooting extreme close ups of food, holding on sexually-charged shots long past uncomfortableness.
Just like his previous two acclaimed and polarising films this is a self-contained world, heavy on metaphor – at one stage Martin actually delivers Stephen an all-too-realistic one – about justice and the consequences of our actions.
Lanthimos is in total control, keeping us guessing on what will happen next and delivering some knuckle-clenching plot twists. A slow burn psychological thriller, with a mix of the fantastic, which will deliver some interesting discussion post credits.
Clayton Barnett (https://www.youtube.com/user/claymonster22/videos)