The Killing of a Sacred Deer
dir Yorgos Lanthimos
scr Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
prd Yorgos Lanthimos, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe
with Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp, Denise Dal Vera, Barry G Bernson, Anita Farmer Bergman, Josephine Elle, Nathaniel Sizemore
release US 27.Oct.17, UK 17.Nov.17
17/UK A24 2h01
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
A matter of life or death: Farrell and Kidman

keoghan cassidy silverstone
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Killing of a Sacred Deer Possibly the least surreal thriller yet from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, which isn't saying much, this movie verges on horror as it pushes its characters right to the brink. The story builds quietly, layering in a variety of issues that continually compel the audience to make decisions about the rather unhinged people on-screen. And while the ultimate message is perhaps muddled, it definitely gets us thinking.

Cincinnati cardiologist Steven (Farrell) has finally overcome his alcoholism with help from wife Anna (Kidman), with whom he has teen daughter Kim (Cassidy) and the younger Bob (Suljic). Now Steven is secretly meeting Martin (Keoghan), 16-year-old son of a patient he recently lost on the operating table. As they become closer, Steven invites Martin to meet his family. And scary things soon begin to happen, jeopardising his children's lives. Anna is desperate to solve this, while Steven is terrified by what Martin says needs to happen for things to be on an even keel.

Up to a point, it's almost possible to explain this logically, although the film is packed with freaky touches that continually unnerve us. Essentially, this is a revenge drama with a severely nasty twist in the tale, like a particularly vicious Twilight Zone episode. It's also powerfully involving, as the emotions are never far beneath the surface, and the behaviour of the characters is so offbeat that we can't help but lean into the story to try to understand it.

Each actor underplays his or her role, even as encounters become outrageously heightened. This gives the film a dreamlike quality without undermining its realism. Farrell and Kidman are terrific as a tortured couple who haven't given up the fight. Both actors cleverly mix vulnerability and tenaciousness into their roles. And while Cassidy and Suljic have strong moments of their own, it's Keoghan's eerily intense presence that makes the biggest impact.

Lanthimos and screenwriting partner Filippou layer in several themes, but the central idea seems to be that guilt and grief aren't things to play with. Try to suppress them and they only grow in power; unleash them and they come back to haunt you. None of this is obvious, but it is woven right through the subtext of pointed scenes that never look for easy answers. And even if the narrative feels somewhat fantastical, the characters are so real that they chill us to the bone.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 25.Sep.17

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Killing of a Sacred Deer Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall