“It’s the only thing I can think of that is close to justice…”
For a filmmaker as avant garde and layered as Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), the plot of The Killing of a Sacred Deer is deceptively simple. Alas, I can’t give much of it away here other than to say that a surgeon (Colin Farrell) is forced to face up to his past by a teenage boy (Barry Keoghan). Lanthimos has got the best out of Farrell before in the aforementioned film The Lobster and he is excellent again here. Farrell is a much better actor when not asked to do an accent and he simmers and pops here in a difficult role. Indeed, in a Lanthimos film all the roles are difficult. Each character only has two settings, a robotic lack of emotion or over the top melodrama. This style takes a while to warm to but eventually the sheer poignancy of the plot helps one to forget about the quirks and idiosyncrasies.
It’s about time I devoted a paragraph to Nicole Kidman because she really is an astonishing actress. Despite loving her in everything from Big Little Lies to Dogville, I don’t think I have ever truly given her the props she deserves. As good as Farrell and Keoghan are here, Kidman is at least their match. Portraying a multi faceted character with little more than a pointed glance and a word or two is difficult but the Australian actress breezes through a tumultuous and fearless performance. She really is a movie star in every sense of the word.
Anyway, back to Lanthimos. Anyone who has seen The Lobster or indeed Dogtooth will know that the Greek director likes to infuse his films with jet black comedy and Sacred Deer is no different. There are genuinely laugh out loud moments within this dark fable which make the viewer uncomfortable but never detract from the story itself. Actually fable isn’t quite the right word. Sacred Deer is closer to a fairy tale. A modern day fairy tale of course, but the idea that all actions have a clear consequence is straight from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson.
A lot of people will not like this film, and it isn’t because they don’t understand it, it is because some people don’t go to the cinema to be challenged. There is nothing wrong with that, it is supposed to be entertainment after all, but those that approach The Killing of a Sacred Deer with an open mind will surely be rewarded with one of the most unique viewing experiences of 2017.