Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Director(s)Yorgos Lanthimos
Principal CastColin Farrell as Steven Murphy
Barry Keoghan as Martin
Nicole Kidman as Anna Murphy
Raffey Cassidy as Kim Murphy
Sunny Suljic as Bob Murphy
Release Date2017
Running Time 121 minutes

Saying I love this movie might be an understatement. When I first saw this back in 2017, I was left completely floored. This movie goes dark, nihilistic places but is somehow hilarious in an awful twisted way. It’s one of a kind and had me on the edge of my seats up till the credits started to roll. Watching it again for this review only reminded me of how amazing it all was and I promise I’ll watch more of Yorgos’s stuff in the future (starting with The Lobster) .

The plot summary will be sparse, because watching the mystery unravel is the best part. Steven Murphy is a renowned surgeon, living the bourgeoisie American life. He has a gorgeous exorbitant house and a nice idyllic family life. After he starts a friendship with Martin, an unnerving high school student, his family mysteriously starts falling ill. As he struggles to find a way to bring them back to good health, he’s forced to confront his past and make some truly outrageous decisions.

Without spoiling too much, the movie is about revenge and responsibility. When someone is wronged, how can we rectify the scales? Who should be responsible and how should things play out? The movie doesn’t stray away from some dark explorations into these areas and watching the characters grapple with the weight of their actions is both disturbing and comedic. There’s just something funny about the lengths people will go through to deny the truth of what’s going on in front of them, and Yorgos knows exactly how to depict that absurdity in a way that’s poignant and sardonic. It’s telling of the human condition- in particular the American bourgeoisie lifestyle – in how people are willing trade bits and pieces of themselves to keep a sense of social coherence/status. People are so preoccupied with inflating their sense of self, that they lose focus of the the important things, trading their humanity for some ludicrous fantasy.

You could pause the movie at random (most of the time) and end up with a nice picturesque moment. Yorgos knows how to create tension and mood with proper shot composition. There are gorgeous tracking shots that accentuate drama. Most of the time the camera zooms in or out very slowly to show the characters relation to the situation around them. Often times, it feels like it’s highlighting isolation and their attempts at projecting outside of that. The score only amplifies this feeling. There are boisterous orchestral moments that make the movie feel like a classic, and modern touches like a cover of Ellie Goulding’s Burn (which is horrifying but catchy).

Everyone’s performance is on point, but Barry Keoghan’s portrayal as Martin is something especially noteworthy. He’s creepy – all caps. He comes off a awkward initially, but as the plot progresses he becomes incredibly versatile. He’s menacing, honest, to-the-point, dry, nonchalant,serious and consistent at his core despite shifting among these moods. If he couldn’t balance the dead-pan, serious delivery of the lines, then a lot of more more memorable scenes wouldn’t have the same impact.

I only have a few problems with the movie. Some of the loftier plot elements feel a bit too “convenient” for me to accept without any question. They’re a bit too fantastical and feel at odds with the depth of realism in other areas. Furthermore, I wanted to understand some of the main drivers of the mystery in more depth, because I thought it could add and enhance the discussion of responsibility, but the film avoids that explanation. It becomes a bigger issue because the first act feels at odds with the conclusion of the movie without this explanation.

The characters also feel a bit odd. Don’t get me wrong. They’re memorable, distinct, and definitely all have moments where they shine. They’re just not relatable because they’re all odd, both as individuals and as interconnected units. Their characterization makes the themes of the movie pop out more , but make the horror harder to relate to.

Report Card

TLDRThe Killing of a Sacred Deer is a deep dive into the dark crevices of the bourgeoisie psyche. It explores themes of revenge, responsibility, and the practice of engaging in cognitive dissonance for social standings. Some of the more ambiguous elements hold the film back from fully exploring its potential, but it hardly matters. If you’re looking for a dark comedic drama with some absurdist moments, I implore you to check this one out.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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