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The Killing of a Sacred Deer (TIFF Review)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (TIFF Review)
09.08.2017by: Chris Bumbray
8 10

PLOT: A cardiac surgeon (Colin Farrell) sparks up a friendship with the teen-aged son (Barry Keoghan) of a former patient who died under his watch. Soon, the boy begins ingratiating himself into the doctorís home life, only to make a startling demand that seems linked to the rapidly deteriorating health of his two children.

REVIEW: THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is director Yorgos Lanthimosís follow-up to THE LOBSTER, reuniting him with star Colin Farrell for a modern take on the classic Greek tragedy. A grim tale, in that it all revolves around the impending demise of two children, the film nonetheless possesses the same, satiric vein of Lanthimosís other films. All of the actors have seemingly been directed to completely remove any emotion from their performances, saying everything in a matter of fact, blank way that gives this a unique, otherworldly feel that adds to the art-house genre aesthetic, but is also quite funny (in an uncomfortable way of course).

Given this technique, itís unlikely the film would have worked nearly as well if it wasnít so impeccably cast, with Farrell delivering a haunting, but often amusing performance in the lead. Nicole Kidman, playing his wife, brings an icy edge to what could have been a formula part, with her, in a way, being drafted into being Farrellís co- conspirator, with them having to essentially weigh their two childrenís lives against each other. As the sinister teen, Keoghan (the doomed boy on the boat with Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy in DUNKIRK) gives a menacing performance that stands as one of the big break-out parts of the last few years. Like the others, he plays his part without any emotion at all, making him all the more menacing, in that he truly does seem like a kind of demonic, otherworldly figure, even though the horror-aspect of the plot is ambiguous.

Through it all, Lanthimos, while working at a deliberate pace, keeps the film richly absorbing, with the awkward humor as perfectly pitched as it was in THE LOBSTER, such as a moment where Kidman play-acts being an anesthetized patient to cater to her husbandís proclivities, or what might be the most uncomfortable father-son heart-to-heart in the history of cinema. Thereís also a juicy cameo from Alicia Silverstone as Keoghanís mom which makes novel use of the film GROUNDHOG DAY. The sparse soundtrack consists mostly of classical music played at decibel shattering levels, with the occasional gonzo touch, such as the use of an Ellie Goulding pop tune.

Thoroughly bizarre in that its so off-kilter, even before the actual premise kicks in, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER should nonetheless strike a chord with both art-house audiences, and even a more mainstream audience, which might be drawn in by the cast. This review is, by necessity, light on plot details, just because the best way to see it is not knowing what the eventual hook is, and has already been spoiled if you read any of the reviews out of Cannes. Take my word for it that Itís compelling, weird and utterly unique - and a real find for an adventurous movie fan, just donít read too much about it before going in.

Extra Tidbit: KILLING OF A SACRED DEER opens on November 3rd

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