Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is the kind of movie that you watch with two simultaneous emotions: fascination and the desire to leave immediately. 2.5 out of 4 stars.
Somewhere out there this season, some brave cinema programmer will book a double bill of Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” and afterward host a very long discussion session (with drinks) titled “What the Hell Was That?”
“Killing” — which shares with “mother!” a lengthy running time, a connection to mythology, a weirdly deadpan atmosphere of creepy dread and a very odd marriage threatened by an interloper — is on the surface the more conventional of the two films. Its characters live in a world that’s ominous but recognizable: heart surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) and his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) live in suburban comfort with their teen daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and younger son Bob (Sunny Suljic). But, as the ominous cinematography tells us (have hospital hallways ever looked so scary?), darkness is looming — in the form of fatherless teen Martin (Barry Keoghan, of “Dunkirk”), whose attachment to Steven soon reveals itself to be very strange indeed.
Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) starts off with an in-surgery shot of a beating, open heart — glistening with fat, it seems like a moving animal — and things go reeling from there: the uniform, intentional flat-affect performances (particularly Martin, who’s both numbingly intense and not-quite-present); the high-angle camerawork, in which the characters sometimes seem to be at the bottom of a too-brightly-lit fishbowl; the slow movement away from familiar settings and emotions. It’s the kind of movie that you watch with two simultaneous emotions: fascination, and the desire to leave immediately. I’m glad, mostly, that I didn’t give in to the second, but I’m still pondering exactly how Lanthimos pulled off the first. Its mood is set by that ever-beating heart; just try to look away.
Movie Review ★★½
‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ with Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Alicia Silverstone, Sunny Suljic. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, from a screenplay by Efthymis Filippou and Lanthimos. 121 minutes. Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity and language. Several theaters.