SPOILER REVIEW: 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer,' an incredible film we're not sure we can recommend
Well, Yorgie, you did it again.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos' latest "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" is very much in-line with his previous work "Dogtooth" and "The Lobster." His characters lack humanity by design, allowing for an absolutely unnerving viewing experience.
The story centers around successful surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) and his eery relationship with a 16-year-old boy Martin (Barry Keoghan). The nature of the bond isn't immediately clear, making it that much more uncomfortable to watch. We slowly realize that Martin's father died under Steven's care a few years earlier, placing a certain feeling of guilt or pity on the doctor.
As Martin begins to embed himself deeper into Steven's life we see a growing resentment come to a head. When Steven deflects the sexual advances of Martin's mother, much to the dismay of Martin, the young man tells the doctor he must kill a member of his own family. Martin warns Steven that if he doesn't choose to kill his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) son Bob (Sunny Suljic) or daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) they will all die miserable, slow deaths. Martin warns this will happen in three distinct stages: numbness of the limbs, refusal of food and bleeding from the eyes followed shortly thereafter by death.
In typical Lanthimos fashion, we leave with more questions than answers. This can bother people but I find it refreshing. The way Lanthimos blends themes of an unknown evil with modern elements grasping for understanding is excellent. As we see Martin's threats begin to play out, we're shown that medical science has no answers. The unexplainable lets the audience come to their own conclusions.
As much as I enjoyed the eery feel of the entire film, it felt much too long. The first act and about half of the second have a great rhythm. The second half of the film drags until the climax. Scene lengths are almost agonizing. Lanthimos' style can be grating. He would have been better served to tighten the third act a bit.
I'm not sure I can recommend this film to anyone looking to have "fun" at the movies. Farrell has said as much, himself. This is a very dark time with an unsettling conclusion. If you're looking for a unique experience, this will tick that box.