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Published October 31st 2017
A Sacrifice Beyond Belief
The last two films I have reviewed (Lady Macbeth and A Ghost Story) have been 'off the wall' and the latest is no exception. In fact, it might just top the other two for leaving me speechless. Opening 16th November nationwide, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a new release from Madman Films and Director Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.
Film poster for The Killing of a Sacred Deer (c/o- Madman Entertainment)
I'll start with a positive. This is the best performance I have seen Colin Farrell give and he is compelling, with his natural Irish brogue, a massive shock of facial hair and a deadpan, matter-of-factness, intrinsic to the role. I would usually cross the street to avoid a Colin Farrell film, so this was a pleasant surprise.
More predictable was the cold manner of Nicole Kidman. She holds her own and engenders moments when you root for her but then another gratuitous sex scene comes along, with the actress appearing completely naked. I wonder why Kidman feels she needs to keep agreeing to graphic sex scenes. It doesn't do anything for her and it doesn't enhance this otherwise very interesting film.
Colin Farrell's unravelling Dr Murphy is a commanding presence (photo c/o- Madman Entertainment)
The premise of the story is Farrell playing Dr Steven Murphy, an egocentric cardiothoracic surgeon, married to control-freak ophthalmologist, Anna, played by Kidman. The two high achievers live a seemingly perfect, albeit quite oddly cold life, with their emotionally-stunted children, Kim and Bob. Something can only go horribly wrong and it does when 16-year-old Martin, left fatherless at Dr Steven's hands, embarks on a revenge tale of epic proportions. It really wouldn't be fair to give anything more of the plot away, as the upside of this film is its highly original narrative. It's part psychological horror, part suspense thriller and part down right creepy, like a cross between Fatal Attraction and The Omen.
The casting of Barry Keoghan as the highly peculiar and persuasive figure Martin, is a masterstroke. I've never seen such an average-looking, pimply, awkward kid cast in a teenage role. It's real life and it's almost confronting when you compare the idealised versions of teenagers we are fed by Hollywood, film on film. At first, we are sympathetic towards Martin and his brutally honest quirks are endearing. 'Tis not long though, before we realise something is very wrong and the rest of the film is spent in a state of discomfort (not necessarily a bad thing), waiting to see the full extent of Martin's sociopathy.
Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman's characters come under threat (c/o- Madman Entertainment)
The black humour, visceral imagery and psychological drama of the film, keeps a heightened pace. I was willing to suspend disbelief in regards the seemingly supernatural turn it takes, until the director (who co-wrote the film) takes it too far in Act 3. Like the Greek tragedy genre that inspired the film, it loses the plot and refuses to end when it should, with some semblance of order being restored. I'm not a prudish or easily offended film-goer but I don't like gratuity and as with Lady Macbeth, I was left stunned by the triumph of evil and the seeming lack of plausibility or moral compass. I can't help thinking that I won't be alone.
Barry Keoghan's Martin is a menacing force (c/o- Madman Entertainment)
As a reviewer, I am loath to give away a film's ending or infer that others shouldn't see a movie because I don't like it. There is much to appreciate in this film and I have seen some rave reviews from critics. For WeekendNotes readers however, I should mention that if you find violence against children or personifications of so-called 'evil', difficult to watch, the shock value of this movie might outweigh its merits.
If you like your films confronting, well-acted and with a subversive narrative, then The Killing of a Sacred Deer may end up on your 'must-see' list. The match-up between Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan isn't one you'll soon forget. I will be interested to see if they rate a mention during awards season.