Like Liam Neeson, fellow Irishman-in-Hollywood Colin Farrell has carved out a niche for himself, playing twitchy bad boys in crime capers and comedies. So it’s odd to see him cast as a senior surgeon in this psychological horror film. But this oddity is merely an hors d’oeuvre in the banquet of weirdness that is The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
DIRECTOR: Yorgos Lanthimos
STARRING: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
ON AT: Elvire Popesco
From the queasy opening scene – which I won’t spoil, but be warned: don’t start watching this film while you’re having your lunch – to the deliberately stilted dialogue that characterizes most of the two-hour running time, director Yorgos Lanthimos sets out to unsettle his audience.
Apparently banal events are rendered nauseous by screeching violins. There are repeated visual allusions to The Shining. And just when you’ve started to adjust to the eerie atmosphere, Lanthimos throws a curveball by dropping in a laugh-out-loud line. What is going on?
While Dr Stephen Murphy (Farrell) appears to have the perfect life – successful medical career, big posh house, beautiful classy wife (Nicole Kidman), and two cute kids – something is Not Right.
Not only is there the strange way everyone speaks to each other (small talk at a glitzy work gala includes: “Our daughter started menstruating last week”), but there is his unexplained relationship with 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan). Although the pair are initially courteous and friendly to each other, it’s obvious that the teen has a hold over the older man.
So when Martin begins to insinuate himself into the doctor’s family and work life, we’re prepared for “cuckoo in the nest” dark turns, but the full creepiness of the narrative and the boy’s agenda are still shocking.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a bizarre cinematic experience – the only reference that comes to mind is the 2014 Dutch psychological thriller Borgman, to which it is similar in plot and mood. It’s a disconcerting watch that leaves you with questions you’ll still be pondering days later.
By Debbie Stowe