TL;DR – No matter how well it is filmed or acted, I can’t recommend it on the story alone which is a deeply disturbing slog with no real redeemable features.
Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars
Oh boy, is this is a tough film to review, and I am going to be honest right from the start that I’ll be quite negative towards the film because of its subject material. Now you might agree with this or not, but for me personally, I found this film to be deeply disturbing and frankly I completely understand why people walked out of my showing. Just a warning that there will be major spoilers in this review.
So to set the scene, Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a cardiologist, husband to Anna (Nicole Kidman), and father to Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). As well as his family life and work he befriends a teenage boy called Martin (Barry) the son of one of his former patients. He invites Martin into his life and introduces him to his family, but then one day Bob can’t use his legs, and it is revealed [SPOILER] that Martin has caused all of Steven’s family to become ill and that only by killing one of them will the other two be spared. So right off the bat, you should know if a film about two kids trying to suck up to their father so the other one would be killed is a kind of movie you want to go see.
So before I continue I do want to mention some interesting things about the film, first the camera angles and music go out of the way to put you off kilter and that does add to the mood. For example, when people are walking down the hallway the camera is positioned from behind and either hovers in the air or is shot from down below. This gives the impression that the audience is voyeurs and are eavesdropping on what should be a private conversation. As well as this, the actors are doing their best with the roles that they are given, and some of the themes of justice and responsibility are interesting. However, none of this makes up for the style and structural issues that I had with the film.
The first thing that you will either love or hate is the way the dialogue is written and presented. It is like all filler has been stripped from the conversations, there is no emotion and characters talk like it is just common to bring up in normal conversation children’s menstrual cycles. Indeed there is only one exchange in the film that there was an almost normal conversation when Anna was attacking Steve for his mashed potatoes request but that’s it. While some might find this kind of delivery interesting, and it was novel at the start, it wears you down as you have to sit through what a robot thinks human conversation is. This has the effect of not being off-putting as I believe was the intent but instead, it dehumanises the very people the film is trying to put on a pedestal and make you care about. This reaches a point that some people in my showing were laughing during some of the pivotal conversations, and I’m sure part of it was an involuntary response to cope with the tone, but part of it was this uncanny valley dialogue.
The next big issue is the story, and the lack of any real explanation of what is going on. For example, why is Steven even befriending Martin at the start of the film to begin with? Does he feel guilt for killing his dad? Was it Martin trying to insert himself into their lives to enact his plan? The two actors almost play it like they are having an affair with each other, which is even more awkward, but the film does not have time to give you an explanation. Also, there is no explanation as to how Martin is doing what he is doing to the family, is it supernatural, is it poison, the movie has no time for explanations. As well as this, Anna never gets sick, and no one really addresses the possible implications of this.
All of this culminates in the end of the film where we have Steven blindfolded spinning around his lounge room with a gun taking pot shots at his family till he kills one of them. First, the idea that a parent would kill one of their children before themselves is awful and you have to watch it play out in intricate detail. However, on top of this apparently, there are no consequences to murdering a child as we see the remaining members of the family free at the end.
Look maybe this whole genre is just not for me, and I was equally critical of another similar film mother! (see review) earlier this year. However, on the flip side Get Out (see review) another psychological horror film will be high on my best films of 2017 list, so maybe not. In the end, can I recommend The Killing of a Sacrificial Deer? Oh hell no, I frankly found the film to be abysmal, and if I was not reviewing it I would have walked out and asked for my money back.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Directed by – Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by – Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou
Cinematography by – Thimios Bakatakis
Edited by – Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Starring – Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp & Alicia Silverstone
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R