Colin Farrell faces Rosemary’s Sophie’s Choice in “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer”, the latest movie from cinematic provoc-auteur Yorgos Lanthimos. Blending classic Greek tragedy, existential horror, psychological drama and medical thriller, it’s a challengingly twisted mystery, an Art-“House, M.D.”
Dr Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a renowned cardiovascular surgeon lives a seemingly perfect life with a lovely home, his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two perfect children, Bob (Sunny Suljian) and Kim (Raffey Cassidy). But under the spotless, sterilised routine of their lives lurks a secret. Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen who Steven has secretly taken under his wing, begins to insinuate himself into the lives of the Murphys and his intentions come into sharp focus when he confronts Steven with the consequences of the sins of the past and the price for a future.
On the spectrum of Lanthimos, “Sacred Deer” sits much, much closer to “Dogtooth” than “The Lobster” and this would easily be the most fucked-up movie I’ve seen this year were it not for the fact I’ve seen “mother!”. From its literally heart-pounding opening – this film is not one for the squeamish, it grips you in its weirdly compelling yet simultaneously off-putting narrative and never lets go.
A twisted, absurdist nightmare, Lanthimos flits fitfully between genres, giving conflicting cues and keeping the audience off balance. The story itself is strange enough but the visuals and sound give everything an extraordinary air of horror. Invariably, we are placed and given the point of view of Gods or Demons, gazing down implacably or peering up furtively as the mortals go about their tiny, trivial, mechanical lives. The performances add to the strangeness, with dialogue being delivered in a detached, disinterested fashion. Both Farrell and Kidman are simultaneously amazing and yet terrible, in any other film the artifice and affected nature of their performance would make it laughable but here is chilling. Barry Keoghan’s dull-eyed malevolent nonchalance grows throughout the film to become one of the most terrifying things ever committed to screen. Accentuated and occasionally overpowered by the score, it makes for acutely uncomfortable viewing and strips away any clues to the morality of the characters themselves as they struggle with a dark and depraved spin on The Trolley Problem, the classic philosophical conundrum which beats at the heart of the sacred deer.
“The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” creates a moral and ethical dystopia and then sets its characters to play without judgement, context or exposition. The experience is what matters in the moment and whether it’s the obsidian black humour, the shocking violence or the sheer terror of the dilemma, this is a film which will stay with you for a long time.