A surgeon’s past comes back to haunt him when his family becomes fatally ill. When faced with the decision of who lives and who dies, he must race against the clock to defy fate and restore peace to his home. Yiorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer examines mortality through a cryptic family tragedy.
Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a soft-spoken physician living a quiet suburban life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children. When a former patient’s son, Martin (Barry Keoghan), becomes enamored with Murphy, the surgeon politely indulges the young man before growing wary of his motives. From here, the story darkens, progressing from unsettling to chillingly tragic.
From the first frame, The Killing of a Sacred Deer aims to distress. Traditionally stable and personal, this movie’s dialogue and characters are instead impersonal and unsettling. These elements combine to tell a deterministic story bereft of morality or other redemptive qualities. Lanthimos‘ story instead deals with mortality, highlighting the Murphy’s illness with no context or reasoning behind this tragedy
There is no humor or emotional reprieve during this movie. The only levity arises from just how absurdly cold the Murphys are in conversation. Their most intimate moments feel hollow and learned, not expressive of deeper emotion. Farrell is excellent as the mild-mannered, robotic husband. Kidman is in her element as his equally-mechanical wife, her pale features and crystal blue eyes piercing in each scene. The children are equally lifeless— sharing stories at the dinner table with the vitality of cadavers.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is decidedly unsettling and withholding. Its story is lifeless throughout, deterministic in its chronicling of things fated to happen rather than hopeful in its protagonist’s journey and triumph over conflict. Detailing any more about its characters or the direction it takes once the Murphys become ill would undermine the reticence with which this film offers insight into its heady themes. This movie earns an 7/10 in my book for its originality and inhuman look at humanity. For a psychological mind-trip hitting on mortality and human fragility, head down to the Belcourt Theatre and check out The Killing of a Sacred Deer.