Friday, October 20, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Released October 20, 2017

Yorgos Lanthimos is a Greek filmmaker whose two films to cross over to American audiences have left quite a distinct impression and an indication of his style. The first, “Dogtooth,” introduced three teenagers whose parents lied to them their entire lives, purposely educating them with wrong information and ensuring that they would never try to leave their home. The second, “The Lobster,” waded more into fantasy territory with its setting at a hotel where single adults check in to find a mate within a set period of time or be turned into an animal of their choice. His third breakthrough is something else altogether.

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a successful surgeon who lives in a nice house with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), his daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy), and his son Bob (Sunny Suljic). As he develops a relationship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), the son of a man who died during surgery, Steven begins to invite Martin into his family’s life. As Martin starts spending more time with them and showing up more frequently, Steven pulls away, and soon after watches as both of his children become inexplicably ill, told by Martin that he can make it stop if he chooses a member of his family to sacrifice as penance for his father’s death.

Where his previous films required some suspension of disbelief to accept their universes as reality, this film sets itself in a relatively normal and unremarkable contemporary society, with just Martin’s seeming ability to inflict medically unmeasurable conditions upon others as the sole supernatural outlier. Just accepting it as legitimate isn’t easy, and the film suffers in a way Lanthimos’ past efforts haven’t as a result. This is also an undeniably disturbing and off-putting film, one whose events are difficult both to digest and to forget. The infusion of Lanthimos’ sinister humor only adds to the distasteful feeling it leaves.

Farrell was the star of “The Lobster,” and he and Kidman appeared together earlier this year in the only moderately more uplifting “The Beguiled.” Buried under a huge beard, Farrell is hard to like, and it’s even harder to emphasize with his increasingly horrifying situation. Kidman is far more sympathetic, and she’s matched well by a very creepy but focused performance from Keoghan, who had a much brighter role in this year’s “Dunkirk.” The dialogue is just as strange as it always in screenplays from Lanthimos and his writing partner Efthymis Filippou, and some of it seems truly random and unnecessary. This film has a foreboding feel from the start, shot in a dark, haunting way. This enthusiastic fan of Lanthimos’ other films didn’t find the same spark here, with an intriguing concept turning utterly unappealing and unfulfilling, needlessly and pointlessly creepy.


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