Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. For more information please visit www.festival-cannes.com/en or follow the Cannes Film Festival on Twitter.
Yorgos Lanthimos is back in Cannes with his sinister and dark-humored psychological thriller The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a film he co-wrote with his regular collaborator Efthimis Filippou. Together, they have already co-written the critically acclaimed and award-winning films Alps, Dogtooth and The Lobster. Except for Alps, which screened in Venice, all of Lanthimos’ films premiered on the Croissette and this year marks the second time for the director to compete in the Official Competition with an English-language film and an international cast.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer stars Colin Farrell as Steven, a successful and charismatic heart surgeon who lives a happy suburban family life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two children, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). The perfect nuclear family is threatened to fall apart when Martin (Barry Keoghan) enters Steven’s life and forces him to make a shocking and disturbing sacrifice.
Martin, a 16-year old odd teenage boy, becomes a regular but awkward acquaintance of Steven. Since the sudden death of Martin’s father, who died in surgery, Steven has become some sort of a parental figure to Martin and has taken the kid under his wing, yet his facial expressions during their meetings reveal that he is suspicious of the boy’s behaviour. They occasionally meet at a diner to hang out and talk but their unlikely friendship also turns out to be a secret one until Martin starts to show up at the hospital unannounced. The mysterious nature of their relationship is slowly revealed after Steven invites Martin over for dinner to meet his family. Although it seems as if Martin befriends Kim and Bob and genuinely likes Anna, it becomes clear that Martin is jealous of their family dynamics and is actually looking for vengeance. Since Steven was the surgeon who killed Martin’s father on the operating table, he demands a similar sacrifice of him. If his demand is not met, Steven will lose every member of his family due to a supernatural curse. As a man of science, the surgeon naturally does not believe in the supernatural or in superstition. When the threat however turns out to be real, he has to come to terms with Martin’s demands and is forced to reconsider making the unthinkable sacrifice.
The title of Lanthimos’ film The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a reference to Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis – a Greek tragedy in which Agamemnon has to sacrifice his eldest daughter Iphigenia after he insulted Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. While Iphigenia is eventually replaced by a deer in the end, Farrell’s character might not be so lucky in changing the outcome of Martin’s curse or even breaking it.
The script is dark and twisty, witty and provocative and Lanthimos is again on top of his game with this venomous thriller (he prefers to call his film a comedy though). The actors, especially Farrell, Keoghan and Kidman, deliver stunning performances. Similar to his previous films, the Greek director puts emphasize on the characters’ reduced emotions and their monotonous and mechanic communication skills, which adds to the mysterious and odd but brilliant and suspenseful tone of the film.
The script is dark and twisty, witty and provocative and Lanthimos is again on top of his game with this venomous thriller (he prefers to call his film a comedy though).