“It’s a metaphor.” says one of the characters in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, writer/director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, follow up film to the critical and commercial success, The Lobster. Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthimis Filippou, co-wrote the project and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is certainly a metaphor.
What’s it a metaphor for is part of the fun and fascination of the film, and though this sacred deer runs out of hart, it has for the most part, a lot of beguiling bang for your buck.
Colin Farrell plays Steven, an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon married to Anna, (Nicole Kidman), a respected ophthalmologist. They are well off and live a happy and healthy family life with their two children, Kim, 14 (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob, 12 (Sunny Suljic). Steven has formed a friendship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16 year-old boy whom he has taken under his wing.
Why he has taken the simmeringly sulky malevolent Martin under his wing is one of the mysteries to this staggeringly opaque and oblique tale. Underlying the quirky, courtly deliberations of the dialogue, there begins to bubble a sinister aspect, focused first on Steven, then on Martin, and see saws somewhat as the story snakes to its rather disappointing finale.
Things take an especially sinister turn when Steven introduces Martin to his family, gradually throwing their world into turmoil and forcing Steven to make a shocking sacrifice or run the risk of losing everything.
Kidman, re-teaming with Farrell after their pairing earlier this year in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, gives a performance akin to her character in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and like that film, steals every scene from her leading man.
The Kubrick name is evoked as well in the way Lanthimos uses exquisite tracking shots and slow zooms and the music of Ligeti.
Keoghan is impressive as the malcontent Malcolm, affecting a cold eyed creepiness that curdles any hope of a happy ending.
The under utilised and under appreciated Alicia Silverstone succeeds as the unsettling yummy mummy honey trap set by Martin to sting Steven.
For three quarters of its running time, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER delights and beguiles, but a muscular dystrophy sets in to its hind quarters and the horror that ensues is hobbled.
Lame ending, but as they say – better to travel hopefully than arrive.
Presented by Madman Entertainment,THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER opens in cinemas on November 16.