THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is about a heart surgeon, Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), who is in a strange relationship with a teenager called Martin (Barry Keoghan). How they are connected is not clear. The boy is awkward and Steven doesn’t even seem to like him, precisely. However, the relationship continues with Steven eventually introducing Martin to his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). Once Martin has established himself with the family, the true reason for his presence becomes clear and the consequences of his contact with the Murphys is fundamentally profound and life-changing.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos co-wrote this film with Efthymis Filippou. The duo also worked on the successful 2015 movie THE LOBSTER. Just as with that offering, they have again created something that largely defies categorisation. Even though THE LOBSTER was described as a dystopic romantic comedy and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER has been described as a psychological horror, it is possible to look for laughs in the former and horror in the latter and find neither in either.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER has scene upon scene where we view the life of the Murphys at arm’s length. We are detached from their chilly, compulsively neat, middle-class existence. The parents have sex in a distant, non-connected way that makes it seem mechanical and rote. They don’t talk about anything significant as a couple or with their children. The kids are locked into their own activities. Martin meets them and his influence is described by them all as positive, but to the viewer it seems to be the opposite. The Murphys don’t appear to understand themselves or each other. Martin is upsetting not a balanced family, but an inert waxwork model of a family.
I found this profoundly tedious. In the first-half of the movie, I was utterly uninterested in the lives of the Madame Tussaud Murphys. Yet, I did find things to like eventually in the performances of Farrell and Kidman. Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic were also good in the roles of the teenagers. There are flashes of interest watching the actors go through the various trials that befall them in the second-half of the film. However it’s the story that fails to engage my interest. There is the occasional insight about family life, but the majority of the scenes are like formal exercises in having the characters say slightly odd things in a slow and deliberate manner and then barely reacting to the things they have uttered. My response was to slowly detach and fall into boredom. It should be noted that more or less everything that Martin says will happen, then happens. It’s very bold of the Filippou and Lanthimos to break with the practice of creating suspense or surprise.
Please note that THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER has been described in glowing terms by many who found it brilliant, clever, thought-provoking, original and stylish. I found it merely stylish. The movie runs for two hours. My rating is (5/10).