The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, Colin Farrell
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster – 2015) again comes up a story line which is far from the norm. Steven (Colin Farrell) is a successful heart surgeon who is in mid- career. To ensure the audience is unnerved from the beginning the opening sequence is of an exposed heart beating rhythmically while undergoing surgery. It is the first of many unsettling images. When Steven comes to speak he does so in a mannered way. Steven has an unusual, difficult to define relationship with a sixteen year old boy Martin (Barry Keoghan) whose mother (Alicia Silverstone) is a widow. Her husband had been Steven’s patient. His relationship with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) initially appears normal enough although idiosyncrasies emerge in the bedroom. They are however the parents of two children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic) who appear normal enough at the beginning. These six characters become intertwined to a greater or lesser extent and extraordinary physical ailments enter Kim and Bob’s lives. Throughout there is a tension heightening score.
Barry Keoghan who had a prominent role in Dunkirk here has a far more substantial part. It is Martin’s relationship with Steven which is the pivotal one and which is the motor from which everything stems. It draws Martin into Steven’s family or perhaps Martin engineers events so that he becomes part of the family. There are relationships which are predictable such as his friendship with Kim but it is never on an easy plain. Steven then meets Martin’s mother in a less than easy meeting. This meeting takes place in her home which draws a clear contrast between Steven’s standard of living and that of Martin and his mother. That is further underlined by a gift of a watch from Steven to Martin. Kidman and Silverstone both give fine performances as the two middle aged women. Kidman being impressive not only as the mother to Kim and Bob but also as the sexual partner of Steven who has somewhat unusual, undemonstrative sexual instincts.
The entire film is well calibrated. The story has elements of horror which are magnified by the so-called comfort of Steven and Anna’s life. The story maybe an allegory for the very fragile lives that professional people live. It shows what happens behind the front door is very different from the outward appearance of successful confidence. There is much to ponder in this disconcerting film.