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.

The Lobster

I adored this. And I am also incredibly sad having just watched it. I feel emotionally empty and also ridiculous in myself.

Colin Farrell is a revelation, and I never thought I would be saying that.

Just the tiniest bit irritated by the voiceover, but that’s nit-picking.

Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

Bless me Father for I have sinned – I wasted the price of a bottle of wine and an hour and half of my life on this.

Explanations out of the way first. This is not a film I would normally contemplate going to see as I am, to put it mildly, not a fan of the television series which spawned this movie. However, I was actively encouraged to defy my better judgement (evidence here) by the people at New Zealand’s Rancho Notorious film podcast. Not one to spurn a challenge, I duly took my seat and waited with as much of an open mind as I could muster.

I should also whole-heartedly acknowledge that this is a massively successful, BAFTA Award-winning television show which many people enjoy, which is presumably why it hit the top of the UK box office in its first week of release.

So the best thing I can say about it is that I didn’t find it as offensive as the slices of the television programme I have seen, and it was only 96 minutes long.

But please … the stereotypes … it was like disappearing back into the 1970s. ‘Salt of the earth’ market traders, token characters from ethnic minorities to poke fun at, an Irish man playing a Chinese man by narrowing his eyes and putting on a funny accent – oh, and that open-mouthed wink to camera. Why is all this funny?

The television series is filmed in front of a live studio audience (as the saying goes), and I understand that ‘out-takes’ are left in, as the audience reaction is part of the ‘fun’. But in a film, leaving out-takes in and showing actors corpsing is annoying at best, and on occasion, confusing. The actors were clearly having more fun that even the most devoted fans in the cinema, and surely that’s the wrong way round?

There were around a dozen people at the screening with me who, to be fair, did chuckle quietly at various points. Mostly where a man dressed as an Irish Mammy said ‘w*nk’ and ‘gobble’ while speaking to a barrister with Tourette’s. The parade of ‘lovable rogues’ was irritating and predictable, and in all honesty, I think this film makes Irish people look stupid.

Apparently, there’s a sequel in the making.

One of the trailers before this film started was for the live broadcast of the Monty Python reunion show. If you want a masterclass in 1970s style comedy, that’s what you should be watching.

Frank

Even though Michael Fassbender spends most of this film with his own head stuck in a polystyrene one, this is a remarkable performance. He doesn’t need to describe his hidden facial expressions for us to know what’s going on, the physicality of his performance is more than enough.

There are some fun parts to this film, mostly as a result of the naivety of the Jon character, through whose eyes the story is told.  But actually, it’s populated with some very mixed-up people who have real problems and struggles, and are dealing with them the only way they can. So it turns out to be a quite touching portrayal of mental illness, with a heartbreaking final scene which proves just how good Fassbender is.

 

Calvary

Brendan Gleeson is always worth watching. And in this film, especially so.

A great set up in the opening scene leads  to a kind of  ‘who’s going to do it’ scenario, with Gleeson at the centre as the man who is trying to do right while surrounded by a collection of deeply troubled people.

It’s a really thought-provoking look at the Ireland of the 21st century, as it struggles to come to terms with the issues which have besmirched its reputation of late.

 

Good Vibrations

It’s such a joyful experience watching this film!

I suppose to those of a certain age, the music which came out of Belfast and Derry in the late 70s is familiar, along with the newsreels of daily bombs and killings in Northern Ireland.

What isn’t so familiar, at least to me, was the story of Terri Hooley, the ordinary man who put his house, marriage and life on the line in order to bring the music to a wider audience.  The story doesn’t fawn or gush – he’s not perfect, but he’s not a bad man – but the sheer joy of watching what happens takes over and left me with a huge smile as I left the cinema.

A film with a huge heart.