The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Image of Barry Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The Killing of a Sacred Deer [2017] is directed by Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos and stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan. A cardiologist is forced to make an impossible choice by a young man he recently began to look after.

“You have nice hands.” Like any of Lanthimos’ films, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is difficult and divisive. Lanthimos has a particularly idiosyncratic style that sets his films apart beyond just the unique and challenging screenplays. He has a way with the audio and visual that makes things appear much more than what they are. The dialogue and cadence of the character’s speech are flat, monotone, and seemingly without self-monitoring. The individuals in a Lanthimos film speak their minds freely, without beating around the bush. All emotions feel restrained or utterly vacant except for the rare moment there’s a possible outburst of anger or sadness that rattles the framing of existence in comparison. Everything is dry and moribund, with feelings of uneasiness and terror mixing with dark humor and eyebrow-raising peculiarity. A Lanthimos film exists on another plane entirely, and thus cannot possibly please everyone; but if you are an individual who finds yourself attracted to those things previously mentioned this is another piece of work that is sure to appease.

“Can you do something to put an end to all this?” The story being told is not necessarily special or unique in a myriad of ways, but the tone and way in which it is told and unfolds are what make it so striking. Despite what would seem like a massive restriction the entire cast is able to deliver wonderful performances even through the flat, nigh-emotionless communication. The way that characters speak to one another brings such an odd and entrancing je ne sais quoi to the whole thing. That paired with the haunting soundtrack that seems to break through and take hold of whatever image is on screen makes a viewing experience that is constantly jarring and surprising even when nothing necessarily important or astonishing is occurring. Lanthimos uses the score to immediately drive the audience into unease, blatantly informing the watcher that this person or this situation is completely not okay before anything narratively has developed to tell us anything of the sort. The way the camera moves, the way shots are framed, and the way the music overwhelms the scenes cause this constant driving tension through even the most mundane moments. It’s a film that keeps you on your toes while at the same time lulling you into a questionable sense of security. It’s hard to explain. It’s wonderful to experience.

“It’s the only thing I can think of that is close to justice.” Lanthimos is a talent to watch, regardless of if you can handle his style and stomach his stories or not. There’s something so fresh and challenging about his works, always darkly funny and impressively anomalous. His latest production is no different from what he’s done before. If you love his way, check this out. If you’re bored or nauseated by what he has to offer, this will produce similar feelings.

Another oddly striking and peculiar outing is what one can expect from Yorgos Lanthimos. Filled with extremely dry and darkly funny moments intertwined with unnerving dread.

Watch The Killing of a Sacred Deer Now