THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, psychological horror, rated R, Violet Crown,
The new film from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos begins with a gruesome close-up of a beating human heart, exposed in the body of a patient whose chest is wedged open with clamps. This heart, which we have plenty of time to size up, doesn’t look good. It’s fatty. Whoever this is should have run a few laps once in a while. But it’s too late now. The image is revolting, and taking it in is difficult. Welcome to Killing of a Sacred Deer.
The surgeon involved is Steven, played by Colin Farrell in a graying beard that masks much of his face. After leaving the operating room, Steven chats idly with a colleague about wristwatches. Then we see him meeting a peculiar young man named Martin (Barry Keoghan of
at a diner. Though the banal discussion of watches continues, these two have a deeper connection based on a shared history. Much of the movie is spent unraveling their past encounter and its ramifications for Steven, his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), their daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy), and their son Bob (Sunny Suljic).
Steven invites Martin home to meet the family, and everything goes well at first. Kim develops a crush on Martin, but he seems interested only insofar as their relationship disrupts the family’s dynamics. Like a bad penny, Martin begins showing up everywhere in Steven’s life, dropping by the hospital and “passing through” Steven’s tony neighborhood. Meanwhile, Bob falls ill, stricken with paralysis from the waist down. As his son languishes, bedridden, Steven insists repeatedly that, in his expert medical opinion, “Bob is absolutely fine.” Tense music from Finnish accordionist Janne Rättyä rumbles and reverberates, undercutting his note of confidence.
As in Lanthimos’ previous film, 2015’s the characters speak in a flat, hushed way that shades the dialogue (co-written by the director and Efthymis Filippou), warping and distorting its emotional content. The lighting is cold and pale, as if the entire world is lit with office fluorescents. As the story progresses, it takes us into more shadowy spaces. We come to understand that Steven’s interactions with Martin have to do with the resolution of something like a terrible curse. Visually and in a narrative sense, this is a movie in which the light gradually goes dim. — Jeff Acker