The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Viewed at TIFF ’17

The man waiting in line for tickets next to me confided that he’d been told this is Yorgos Lanthimos’ darkest film. My immediate thought was that it would have to go some to live up to that statement. And to be honest, it’s not far off. It’s certainly as dark as Dogtooth, the film that brought him to wider attention.

Lanthimos builds worlds for his narratives in which the weirdest premise seems normal, and if you find yourself looking for explanations for the world instead of just being in it with the characters, then it’s a struggle to enjoy.

In the world of The Killing of a Sacred Deer , Colin Farrell resumes his collaboration with the director, this time as surgeon Steven Murphy, husband to Nicole Kidman and father of two. We also see him having sensitive, discreet conversations with a young man, whose role becomes clearer as the narrative progresses. As a result, Farrell finds himself in a position where he has to make a life-changing decision, which seems totally logical in the movie’s world – but which is utterly horrific in ours.

The dialogue is, with rare exception, delivered in a monotonous tone which will be familiar to audiences who saw The Lobster, so that even the most intimate conversations are matter-of-fact and merely transactional. This includes Farrell and Kidman’s sexual activities, and their daughter’s puberty, and results in the audience laughing both at the absurdity of the situation while at the same time cringing at the events unfolding.

This is the world of Yorgos Lanthimos – we can laugh heartily while still realising that something unbearable is about to happen. When the inevitable finale arrives, the mixture of laughter and gasping proves that he has got it right again.

The cast rises to the challenge perfectly, with Farrell and antagonist Barry Keoghan delivering the best performances.

Lanthimos fans will not be disappointed by his latest offering.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Yorgos Lanthimos, and actor Barry Keoghan.

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