Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

16 January 2018

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

There is a ton to say about The Killing of a Sacred Deer. In the first place, it's an old-school Greek tragedy, with a central daimon who enacts vengeance – what the Athenians called necessity – against someone, and by extension, his family. But, of course, this is Yorgos Lanthimos, so Sacred Deer is totally batshit.

The thing is, this film, by comparison to The Lobster and Dogtooth, actually isn't nearly as crazy. In many ways it is rather straightforward.

I was into it, anyway.

The film's best parts are the "normal" stuff, before the movie goes ancient on us. I loved the ancient tragedy stuff, too, don't get me wrong. But my favorite parts of any Lanthimos movie are his versions of normal, bourgeois behavior, where people speak in stilted ways and make slightly odd requests of one another.

The other great thing about Sacred Deer is the work of the actors. Colin Farrell is positively killing the game this year (he turns out great performances in this, in Roman J. Israel, and in The Beguiled) and every other year, if we are all honest. (Can you remember him giving a performance that wasn't good? I can't.) He is great in this. And Nicole Kidman has got to be the most fearless female movie star working right now. Do you know any other actress of her caliber who is willing to get naked and play a character this nuts for a film as small as Sacred Deer, a film that has zero awards ambitions? Kidman is doing the work. She isn't in it for the awards. She's making interesting film after interesting film and choosing them carefully.

And then there's Barry Keoghan, the film's strange minister of justice. He's good in Dunkirk, but he's electric in this. Creepy and sexy and compelling while also being totally terrifying. It's a really extraordinary performance.

I read one criticism of Sacred Deer that accused Lanthimos of being on autopilot – that this film just feels like a poor man's copy of his earlier stuff. This strikes me as unfair. Lanthimos is still getting stellar performances out of his actors; he's still creating strange worlds; he's still exploring bourgeois values and relationships. And this movie does all of those things in a slightly new way. It is definitely worth a watch. I found it totally enjoyable.