I don’t know how else to begin this review but by saying that I do not think I can rate this film fairly, and will not be giving it a rating. Sometimes there comes a film that is so bold in its artistic vision, so different in every aspect, that it will divide audiences. Many will not understand this film or will think that it is downright strange and sadistic. Others will regard it as a masterpiece. This is why I do not feel I can give an “out of 10” for this film. That being said…
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, and is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. It comes in the wake of his two successful works in Dogtooth (2012) and The Lobster (2015), and is his second film made in the English language. Both of the aforementioned films are excellent pieces of filmmaking that I would highly recommend. Lanthimos has a tendency to pursue niche topics and interweave social commentary with views on family dynamics. They’re both treats to watch.
I believe The Killing of a Sacred Deer to be Lanthimos’s best work to date. The film concerns a suburban family, with a surgeon father (played by Colin Farrell) who meets a teenaged boy named Martin (played by Barry Keoghan). The film turns into a revenge-based psychological horror-thriller that kept me at the edge of my seat the entire time. The film is near perfectly plotted and the story is incredibly rewarding to have unfold before the viewer’s eyes.
It’s clear why it won the prize for Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival. The psychological drama that takes place is at once scary and effective. It does not let up for even a moment and enthralls the viewer in its web. It’s just that good.
The way in which Lanthimos presents the film makes the viewer feel incredibly uncomfortable from the get go — and that’s a good thing. It makes the viewer feel uneasy about the characters. Even slight changes in the frame, whether that be through zooming in on a character, placing the camera away from the action or framing a character with space above their head, contribute to seeing the story in significantly different ways. The subtlety of the direction is incredible.
The actors complement this direction almost flawlessly. Both Farrell and the emerging talent in Keoghan are spellbinding, being at once convincing and terrifying. The essence of their psyches are marvellously portrayed onscreen. Nicole Kidman is also a notable standout in the film, taking on many uncomfortable scenes with complete seriousness and professionalism.
While I personally found no flaws with this film, I could see why some audience members would not enjoy it. There are instances of gore throughout the film that will make some viewers uncomfortable and there are other scenes specifically designed to cause discomfort.
In the opinion of this critic, however, it is the best film that I have seen so far this year. It is a bonafide masterpiece and there is no way that I could give it a higher recommendation.
by Justin Secor