The Killing of a Sacred Deer
the killing of a sacred deer | yorgos lanthimos | efthymis filippou | colin farrell | barry keoghan | nicole kidman | mythology | based on | euripides | drama | mystery | thriller | ireland | united kingdom | bill camp | raffey cassidy | alicia silverstone | sunny suljic
Film: The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Starring: Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan and Nicole Kidman
This was a film that I heard about through podcasts and I was intrigued to check it out. I knew a few different things that I heard that the movie. One was that it was odd and that was about it as I avoided walkthrough reviews and spoilers. I’ve now given it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis for this film is Steven (Colin Farrell), a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.
Much like the synopsis states, we’re following Steven Murphy. We see him interact with Matthew Williams (Bill Camp) who is an anesthesiologist. From there he goes to a diner to meet with Martin (Barry Keoghan). Martin is late, but Steven doesn’t seem to mind. Martin grabs some food and they chat. The two drive to the river where they continue on about different subjects and Steven gives him a gift.
We also get to meet Steven’s family, which thus far he has kept Martin from. Steven is married to Anna (Nicole Kidman) who I believe is an eye doctor and runs her own clinic. He has a daughter who is Kim (Raffey Cassidy). She is a member of a choir at school. I got the feeling Steven prefers her to his son, Bob (Sunny Suljic), who is younger. He is a bit defiant toward his father’s wishes and is a ‘momma’s boy’.
Steven then invites Martin over for dinner. He brings flowers for Anna and gifts to the two children. Steven wants him to spend time with Bob, but he is attracted to Kim and she feels the same toward him. To reciprocate, Martin invites Steven over for dinner. He tries to decline, but the teen won’t hear anything of it. He all but coerces him to come. After the meal, he wants Steven to stay and watch a movie, but then he goes to bed, Martin’s Mother, Alicia Silverstone, comes on to him. Steven rebuffs the attempts and then tries to distance himself from Martin.
Something that should be pointed out, there’s a reveal that Steven was performing surgery on Martin’s father. It was considered routine, but the man died. Steven seems to feel guilt for what happened, hence why he’s reaching out. There is a subtle thing that is introduced about him and a change he’s made in his life.
Things take a turn though when Martin warns him what is going to happen to his family. They will lose the feeling in their limbs and no longer able to walk. They then will refuse food to the point of starvation followed by their eyes bleeding which will result in death. In order to stop this from killing everyone, the ultimate sacrifice will need to be made. Steven is resistant to believe and once things start to happen, Anna gets involved and decisions are made, some of which are unimaginable.
The first thing I really need to lead off here with is that this is an odd movie. I know many were talking about the way people talk and I tend to agree, it feels like it is written by someone where English is not their first language. It does give me a vibe of a movie where we’re seeing a classic tale, something like a Greek or Roman myth that is playing out in modern times. It gives me an uncomfortable feeling for sure.
Now I normally stick with fleshing out my ideas with the story, but since I’ve already leaned into the eerie and uncomfortable feeling that I get, I want to talk about the soundtrack of this movie. I watched it on Netflix, with the subtitles on, and they would legit state the feel of the music. It is dead on. There were a few times where my anxiety went way up and a lot this was the score used. It is louder in some places to the point where you can’t hear the characters talking, but that is the point. It isn’t important to hear them, but you’re given the feel of those scenes. I should also point out that between the strange dialogue and the unnerving soundtrack, Jaime had to leave the room. She was trying to read and said this was too distracting for her.
Back to the story though, I did read that this is based off ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’ by Euripides, who was a Greek if the memory serves. I’m not familiar with this, but I found it interesting that Kim wrote an essay on it that is referenced by her principal to Steven. I feel this is an interesting meta-aspect to the film. Since I’m not familiar with this work, I had to look this up after the fact, but I will say that when I heard it in the scheme of the movie, I thought there was a connection for sure.
Coming in the first time, I wondered what the title had to do with the movie. It makes sense when Martin tells the rules to Steven and then it clicked home. There’s a supernatural angle here that the teen is getting revenge on Steven for allowing his father to die. What I like about this though, he doesn’t seem malicious in his intent, despite the hurting that is deep inside. He does really seem to like Steven. Steven claims to Anna that Martin has something wrong mentally, which I somewhat agree with. There’s something off about the boy. This is where there’s a slight detriment with how the dialogue is done as that could be where I’m feeling this from. Regardless, I do think that the trauma of what happened to him has affected Martin so deeply that he is seeking his revenge.
The last part of the story that I wanted to go into are with Steven. He is faced with this decision. He cannot make a choice though. Part of that is this being the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. It would be nearly impossible. Bo on the Summer Series episode brought up though that Steven doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. Anna asks him about the case with Martin’s father. He blames Matthew, saying that a surgeon’s mistakes never lead to death. This isn’t true. I did find interesting though that later in the movie, Matthew tells the death was Steven’s fault. It feels that doctors don’t take responsibility. Steven seeks out the opinions of others, but he can never gets told what to do. He can’t even decide late in the movie, he leaves it up to chance. I do think this is a theme for the movie.
Shifting over to the pacing, this movie drags, but not necessarily in a bad way. I think a good part of this is the uncomfortable feeling I have throughout it. This runs just over 2 hours long. I’m not going to lie, I checked to see how far I was into this about 30 minutes in and then felt another sense of dread coming over me. I never got bored though, I do want to point that out. This is really a slow-burn and has art-house flair to it for sure. I did like the ending and the bleakness of where things ended up. After this second viewing, I still think it is a slow burn. It flew by though and was effective.
That will take me to the acting, which I thought was good across the board. Farrell is an interesting actor to me as for whatever reason, I don’t really care for him, but I can’t really think of a bad role he’s done though. I think that he does well at playing this arrogant doctor who is refusing to take responsibility until he’s faced with the most difficult decision of his life. Keoghan is amazing as well. There’s something not quite right about him that we get from the beginning. Socially he’s awkward. This is compounded by how the script is written, but I can still tell despite that. Kidman is good as well, especially the lengths she’ll go as the counterpoint to her husband. I thought that Suljic and Cassidy are solid as well. They do offer their opinion on things that make it more uncomfortable. Silverstone as Martin’s mother is fine in the cameo along with Camp and the rest of the cast. We also get to see Kidman nude. She still looks great for her age by the way.
The last thing to go over would be the effects of the movie. There’s not a lot until the effects that Martin says will happen. We get to the point where Bob’s eyes are bleeding and it looked quite real to be honest. Both him and Kim performance when their legs aren’t working was good. I also thought that using actual footage from surgeries was a nice touch to the sense of realism. On top of that, the look of the film helps to add to the eerie feel along with some good cinematography as well.
Now with that said, this is an intriguing film that I can’t recommend to everyone. I really like the allegorical tale that we’re getting here of a difficult decision one man must make in punishment of something that he did. When I say difficult, I mean pretty much impossible. The acting is good across the board in bringing this to life. The effects and how the movie was shot are both solid as well. The soundtrack is one of my favorite parts with how it made me feel. The bleak ending was on point and I enjoyed this movie overall. I find it to be good, but again, it is artsy and if you don’t like these, avoid this as I don’t think this is for you. It is from A24, so if you like their films, you know the type of vibe for this depressing movie.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10