It’s an incredible time for independent filmmaking. With production houses like A24 leading the frontline, indie movies are becoming a major force in the festival circuit and showing potential as serious Oscar contenders. Greek Director Yorgos Lanthimos has displayed great strengths as one of most competent indie filmmakers of recent years. His 2015 black comedy film “The Lobster” did very well at festivals and even garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. He is back this year with a psychological horror-thriller in the form of The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Steven, an accomplished surgeon has to face the unthinkable when his family befalls great suffering at the hands of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the more uncomfortable thrillers of the year. Utilising a Kubrick style of film-making to wring out as much tension each scene lends itself to, the film is test audience’s nerves from the very first shot. Each actors performance feels robotically reflexive to one another, which cause the moments of pure emotion stand out. This film is one of the most unique of the year, and the talent behind the camera as well as on the screen help bring it to life.
Yorgos Lanthimos is a brilliant if not peculiar filmmaker. His films are reminiscent of the absurdist art movement. The concepts are so off the wall weird, but if you can accept the reality of the world the movie presents than the themes and merit of the story shine even brighter. This is how “The Lobster” was, an absurdist black comedy about people who don’t find love getting turned into animals. The premise is absolutely silly, but if you get on board it’s a wonderful love story. “Sacred Deer” is similar in this regard, but not so weird. The film is rooted in more a real world, but everything feels slightly off so there is a consistent sense of unease throughout the film.
This is a revenge tale through and through. The very first shot of an open heart surgery immediately calls to mind the Shakespearean phrase of “a pound of flesh.” This means that when something is owed it needs to be paid back at every cost. Martin, the young boy who is taken under the Steven’s tutelage, believes justice is owed to him in full. He does not want to take if for himself. It is something Steven must comes to terms with on his own, and the more he puts off this decision the more his loved ones suffer. The story is one of the most Shakespearean and Kubrik-esque in modern movies. Territory like that can lend itself to a degree of pretension or self-indulgence, but this film falls just below that sort of arrogant filmmaking.
The performances from the cast bring a degree of realism to the world of the movie. Yorgos Lanthimos has brought Colin Farrell’s acting talents to the forefront. Farrell delivered a compelling performance in The Lobster, and his role here is even more impressive. Nicole Kidman is as wonderful as ever, seamlessly transitioning between a doting wife and a women with a cold practically during dire times. The truly standout performance in this film is from Barry Keoghan, who played in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” earlier this year. His performance is what sells the movie. His presence in every scene adds the right amount of tension and uncertainty, as no one is sure if he is evil or just psychologically stunted. There are a couple of scenes during the final act of the movie where his delivery is outright terrifying.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is another impressive indie film that A24 can add to portfolio. This film proves that Yorgos Lanthimos is an established filmmaker who knows who to tell a compelling story utilising his absurdist style. Barry Keoghan displays his acting prowess, and he is definitely an actor to keep an eye out for in the coming years. The film is an uncomfortable, disturbing ride audiences should definitely brace themselves for, but it is a film worth seeing in theaters. The film has had a limited release over the past few weeks, but opens up to a wider selection of theaters this Friday.
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