Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Disturbing, hypnotic and surreal, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a fantastically unique film filled with wonderful performances all around.

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Coming off the back of his 2015 success with The Lobster, director Yorgos Lanthimos is back again this year with another unique entry into his already impressive filmography. Dark, hypnotic and even surreal at times, his newest film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is as captivating as it is strange.

The film follows successful doctor Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) who lives a luxurious life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children, Bob (Sunny Suljic) and Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Steven takes under his wing Martin (Barry Keoghan), a teenage boy whose underlying psychological issues become more apparent when he begins to threaten Steven’s family as a means for revenge for something in his past. As those closest to Steven begin to suffer, he becomes faced with a terrible choice that appears to be his only hope of saving those around him.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a beautifully shot film. Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis fully utilises the wealthy suburban and polished hospital settings with everything in the film being wonderfully lit and the colour white frequently being used for some visually striking scenes. This overly-clean look to the film adds to the underlying feeling of discomfort as everything almost feels too spotless.

This discomfort is a constant presence in the film from the graphic opening scene, right through to the powerful conclusion; every frame gives the impression that something isn’t quite right. This is mainly down to Lanthimos’ directing style, with lots of long lingering shots of characters proving to be very impactful. The film is also accompanied by a fitting soundtrack made up of orchestral pieces that give the film a feeling of a classical tragedy.

The plot is in fact based on an Ancient Greek tale of revenge and a lot of this shows with the seemingly inexplicable nature of what’s happening to Steven’s family. Whilst it may seem like a slow burn, the film expertly builds tension to the point that when we get to the climactic conclusion, you are left feeling an equal amount of shock and relief.

Everyone involved puts in wonderful performances, a lot of them being very subtle. Colin Farrell hides much of his emotion behind a huge beard for most of the film but nonetheless, his performance as Steven is surely one of the best of his career as he convincingly portrays a man on the brink of losing it all. Nicole Kidman is equal to Farrell in every way and is brilliant as his wife Anna with a cold, calculated performance that makes her a very powerful character. Barry Keoghan, who continues to rise after great performances in both Dunkirk and Trespass Against Us this year, is also excellent as the psychologically disturbed Martin. As heartless as Martin is, Keoghan plays him in such a way that you actually begin to sympathise with his character motivations, despite his undeniably sinister nature.

Lanthimos teamed up again with Efthymis Fillippou in writing the film and it shows in the clever, carefully crafted dialogue. Each character, Steven, in particular, comes across as very polite, but almost in a disingenuous, awkward way that only adds to the sense of falseness that is given off by the film’s settings and plot.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an excellent watch and is sure to stay on your mind long after the credits roll. Disturbing, surreal and beautifully filmed, it is another fantastic piece of original cinema from Yorgos Lanthimos, who continues to deliver.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is distributed in the UK by Curzon, certificate 15

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