Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Photo: A24)
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Yorgos Lanthimos
STARS Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman
Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2010 import Dogtooth earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film while his 2016 effort The Lobster nabbed an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, co-written (like his previous pictures) with Efthymis Filippou, will likely come up short in this year’s Oscar race, but no matter. Call it a minority report, but I find it to be the most consistently mesmerizing of the trio, and a stronger ending might have vaulted it into “10 Best” consideration.
A creepy combo of The Twilight Zone and Sophie’s Choice, the film stars Lobster star Colin Farrell as Steven Murphy, a surgeon who has befriended a teenage boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan). The exact nature of their relationship isn’t clear, but Steven seems to be spending almost as much time with the lad as he does with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy), and son Bob (Sunny Suljic). Steven eventually elects to introduce Martin to his family, and it’s here when matters take a particularly dark turn.
To reveal more would be to deny viewers the opportunity to get blindsided by the directions the film ultimately takes, but suffice to say The Killing of a Sacred Deer is decidedly not for moviegoers who prefer their options on the “feel-good” end of the spectrum. This is a deeply disturbing film, with its eeriness accentuated by the delivery of the dialogue (everyone speaks in carefully enunciated, drawn-out sentences, as if the characters were all trapped in an etiquette class), the sterility of many of Lanthimos’ shot selections, and the moral monstrousness of many of the main characters.
Farrell and Kidman are both excellent, and there’s an unexpected appearance by no less than former Clueless star Alicia Silverstone as Martin’s mom. (On a side note, it’s impossible not to think of Rabbit Hole while viewing this, with the presence of Kidman as a tortured mom and even the casting of Keoghan, who looks a bit like the previous film’s Miles Teller.)
A final twist could have elevated this to giddy heights — as it stands, the film flatlines at the very end. Nevertheless, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the more unique pictures now playing, and it should serve as the perfect antidote for those annoyed that the seasonal cheer is already being foisted upon us.