“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is one of this year’s weirdest and most uncomfortable films. It stars actor Colin Farrell as a doctor whose friendship with a strange teenage boy yields sinister results on his wife and two children.
Nicole Kidman continues her wonderful year after the success of “Big Little Lies” and “The Beguiled” as Farrell’s wife and gives a subdued performance of a woman with a slowly unraveling life. Her husband’s new friend, Martin, slowly brings chaos upon the family, although not in the way one would expect.
Without getting too heavy into spoiler territory, Martin has an ability, but not in an “X-Men” or “Carrie” sort of way. He is able to do one specific thing that leads to the destruction of this family. How or why Martin is able to do what he does is never explained in the film.
The movie has a detached indifference that makes everything feel stilted. This is not by accident, as this severe deadpan approach has become one of director Yorgos Lanthimos’ signature moves, as evidenced in his previous movies “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster.”
Most shots are framed from a distance and matching that with the very unnatural, forced dialogue creates a movie that feels distanced. This distance allows viewers to be sucked into the film, slowly trying to figure out what exactly is going on, or this could make viewers feel restless and uncomfortable, especially when the shocking and jarring bursts of violence occur.
While the film does not give any answers, there are enough subtle hints and references to mythology that are clear to its plot and elements from previous scenes.
The title, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” refers to the Greek myth “Iphigenia.” Understanding the mythology will not necessarily explain the film, but there are enough parallels to see how Lanthimos is, on some level, reimagining the story through his unique perspective.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is too weird for most audiences. While Lanthimos’ previous film, “The Lobster” was nominated for “Best Original Screenplay” at the Oscars, this movie lacks the overt absurdism and original universe to gain any real recognition. While the directing and acting were all top-notch, it seems unlikely this will be a film remembered during the upcoming awards season.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” can be recommended to only a select few. Fans of Lanthimos’ other movies, people who are okay with movies that do not answer any of the questions it raises and fans of Farrell and Kidman, will likely enjoy it. For anyone else, there are plenty of other movies out now that are much more digestible and easily enjoyable.