Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keogan
Review: Michael Dalton, Prime Minister
To say too much about the plot would spoil the delightfully delicate way in which the film lures you in, and so I will refrain from divulging too much information. The story focuses on a heart surgeon named Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) who is maintaining a secret friendship with a teenager called Martin (Barry Keoghan). When a mysterious ailment strikes his family, Steven and his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) are soon presented with an impossible choice.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is brought to us by writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, who is best known to mainstream audiences for his Oscar nominated film, The Lobster. If you’ve seen The Lobster then you should have some idea of what to expect here. However, where I personally felt that film ran out of steam, The Killing of a Sacred Deer escalates beautifully, culminating in one of the most intense cinematic experiences of 2017.
Yorgos Lanthimos and his co-writer Efthymis Filippou won the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for The Killing of a Sacred Deer and it’s easy to see why. Through their dialogue, a wonderfully off-kilter tone is established. There’s an undercurrent of satire and incredibly pitch-black comedy running throughout the film, which prevents it from being the bleak experience it could otherwise have been.
However, if you put this dialogue in other hands it could sound utterly banal. Its effectiveness comes as much from how its performed as from how its written. The dialogue is spoken in a very tightly wound, severe manner that feels both stilted and highly performative. The result is that the most absurd of lines are delivered in the most straight-faced of manners. The age-old critical question of whether quality was there on the page or brought through the performances is made redundant, as it is clear we are watching a perfect synthesis of the two and a pure realization of a director's vision. You’ll never hear more foreboding conversations about watchstraps or how to eat spaghetti. I knew this film had succeeded when, days after, I ate spaghetti and all I could think about was this film's chilling monologue on how it's done.
Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman continues what has been a phenomenal run of work. With The Beguiled earlier this year (also co-starring Colin Farrell) and her work on the small screen in Big Little Lies, she is arguably the in-form actress of the moment. Here, Kidman gives the sort of icy, steely performance she does so well, as her character takes matters into her own hands (quite literally in one scene) and manipulates those around her.
However, the star of the show is undoubtedly Barry Keoghan. Best known to audiences as George from Dunkirk ("I'll be useful, sir.") Keoghan delivers a career-turning performance here. As the mysterious Martin, he commands your attention whenever he's on screen. At first you're scanning his face for clues, as you try to decipher the nature of his relationship with Colin Farrell's character. Then, as the narrative progresses and his motivations become clear, you find yourself both terrified and entranced by his presence. Polite and psychotic in equal measure, it's one of the finest performances of the year so far. In terms of career impact, it could do for him what We Need To Talk About Kevin did for Ezra Miller.
By the time The Killing of a Sacred Deer reaches its crescendo, your heart will be in your mouth as one of the year’s most intense scenes plays out. While its humour may be too pitch-black for some, or its conclusion too bleak, in terms of uniqueness and sheer uncompromising vision, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the year’s best films.
Movie Parliament Rating: LANDSLIDE
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
Have you seen The Killing of a Sacred Deer? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.