There’s a very specific vibe to be found within the films of Yorgos Lanthimos. To call his movies black comedies is to underestimate just how dark things get and how uncomfortable the laughs usually are. Lanthimos made his breakthrough with Dogtooth, before getting a major Academy Award nomination for last year’s The Lobster. This week, The Killing of a Sacred Deer opens after a fairly divisive reception at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. It marks the second collaboration between Lanthimos and Colin Farrell, while the second time this year that Farrell has been paired with Nicole Kidman this year, after The Beguiled. Without question, this is the weirdest one yet for them all.
This movie is hard to categorize, but perhaps could be called a morbid black comedy. It centers on the Murphy family, led by surgeon Steven (Farrell). He and his wife Anna (Kidman) seem to have a perfect life, with a big house, successful careers, and two lovely children in Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). Steven also has a close relationship with teenager Martin (Barry Keoghan), whose father died under his care. It seems innocent enough, though Martin has designs on Steven marrying his mother (Alicia Silverstone). Then, he reveals that Steven must choose between his children, letting one die, or they both will. He dismisses Martin, but then Bob and Kim lose the use of their legs. From there, I’ll leave it to you to discover, but there’s some very unusual stuff going on here. Lanthimos co-writes with Efthymis Filippou and directs, while the supporting cast includes Bill Camp, among others. Cinematography is by Thimios Bakatakis, while the score is from Yorgos Mavropsaridis.
Anyone expecting The Lobster all over again will be disappointed. This is closer to Dogtooth, though perhaps even darker. The humor here is mined from paralysis and the potential murder of an offspring. Lanthimos is a master of this tone, though you might say he’s going to his darkest place yet. Farrell and Kidman are very solid, while Keoghan is as disturbing as it gets. You may be surprised, but Silverstone steals the show in her small part. This will likely be a film that divides audiences, unlike The Lobster, so just know that going in. If anything, it could become a cult movie in the making. The quality is there. The material is just as uncommercial as it gets.
Awards are probably going to be a hard sell for The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A24 might see fit to campaign it in a bunch of places, but it seems like a long shot. Still, there’s no reason not to throw it out there in Best Picture, Best Director (for Lanthimos), Best Actor (for Farrell), Best Actress/Supporting Actress (for Kidman), Best Supporting Actor (for Keoghan), Best Supporting Actress (for Silverstone), and Best Original Screenplay (for Filippou and Lanthimos). Original Screenplay would be the likeliest of the long shots, but I suspect nothing will happen for this one, at least with the Oscars.
On Friday, The Killing of a Sacred Deer will try and make a dent in the indie marketplace. Farrell and Kidman might attract some audience members, but really, unless you’re way into Lanthimos, this flick will be an utter puzzle to you. This particular auteur has relished that during his career, it seems, but after some crossover success last year, it might be especially jarring. It’s well worth seeing, but know its divisiveness going in. Your mileage may vary, though for my money, it’s a bizarre treat of sorts. Give it a look if that sounds up your alley and see what you think…
Be sure to check out The Killing of a Sacred Deer, beginning its theatrical run this weekend!