Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) is known for unconventional storytelling, and his latest certainly fits that bill. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a respected surgeon with a wife (Nicole Kidman), two children (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic), and secretive relationship to the son (Barry Keoghan) of a former patient with an equally strange mother (Alicia Silverstone, in a surprisingly small role). When Steven’s son develops odd symptoms that can’t be explained, the doctor is confronted by Martin (Keoghan) who makes veiled threats while suggesting that he is somehow responsible.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a frustrating movie. The film is visually stunning with a haunting score, but every time an actor delivers a torturous line-reading (more appropriate to a group of lonely souls reading publicly from their Twilight fan fiction) the spell is broken. There's a stiltedness to every performance, no character speaks naturally, and even their reactions, movements, and manners are so affected it will make you wonder if you missed the note explaining that everyone in the film is autistic.

There are also plenty of plotholes involving various characters' inactions that can only be explained away by the setting of this odd reality in which people don't speak, act, or behave in any normal way. That's certainly a cheap out for the script, and it doesn't quite work well enough to cover all of the film's shortcomings. That said, somehow, the movie still works as we watch the psychological torture inflicted on Steven and his family which takes unexpected turns as tensions rise and the surgeon is faced with an impossible choice. I'm glad I stuck with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, as I could just have easily walked away 10-minutes in, but it's a frustrating film that fails and succeeds in so many ways simultaneously that it's not one I could recommend to most audiences.

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