Frances Winston reviews Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which she feels is very similar in style to The Lobster, which also starred Colin Farrell, and may be an acquired taste
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos – Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp
Lanthimos’ last film, The Lobster, was a critical and commercial success, so this has a lot to live up to. So no doubt sticking to the ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ theory, he has once again called on Colin Farrell to take the lead.
The Lobster was completely surreal and absurdist, and this is a similar style, although it is not set in a dystopian world, but rather one that resembles contemporary life.
Farrell plays a cardiac surgeon called Steven, who is forced to confront events from his past when tragedies start befalling his family.
Much like The Lobster, the dialogue here is stilted, delivered in a non-emotive and straightforward way, and much like the Lobster, we are never given any explanation for the almost supernatural happenings – they just are. Many of the scenes are almost set as tableaux, and visually this is incredibly striking. However, it sometimes feels like scenes don’t get a chance to breathe, and quite often the dialogue becomes grating, thanks to the stilted delivery.
Essentially the underlying story here – where someone seeks revenge for the death of their father by targeting his surgeon’s family – is a good starting-off point. However, I couldn’t help feeling that this was trying very hard to replicate The Lobster, and at times for me it dragged. There is a ‘having a filmmaking style’ and then there is basically making the same movie over and over, and it would be a shame if Lanthimos were to fall into the latter category.
There are some nice moments, particularly between Kidman and her on-screen children, but I found it hard to warm to Farrell, and there were several scenes that seemed completely superfluous to needs.
The writing has some clever moments, but it is relying on the audience picking up on them. However, if you miss them, you may find yourself confused at other points in the film, so you really do need to totally focus for the entire movie.
Much like the Lobster, this will be an acquired taste, and how you feel about it will probably depend on the frame of mind you are in when you watch it. Personally, I will admit I was a bit tired when I saw this, and it may have coloured my perception, but regardless, it isn’t the kind of movie which would have mass-market appeal.
I’m sure that cinema purists will love this, and wax lyrical about artistry, and the idiosyncrasy and bravery of Lanthimos, and it will probably be inundated with awards. However, I didn’t feel it was art-house enough to fall into that luvvie category, but neither is it completely commercial, and it doesn’t seem to fit comfortably in the middle either.
It’s an interesting piece, but stylistically too close to The Lobster to stand alone.
In Cinemas November 3rd!