Movie review: 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'

Brad Keefe

In his follow-up to last year's “The Lobster,” director Yorgos Lanthimos again establishes that he makes films in his own world.

That world is weird, deadpan and idiosyncratic, perhaps never more so than in his latest “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” It's not for everyone, but his direction is so wildly confident, it's one of the best experiences I've had at the movies this year.

The film opens on an open heart, as we meet Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a cardiovascular surgeon. Then we meet his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), and their two exemplary children, Bob (Sunny Suljic) and Kim (Raffey Cassidy).

The family seems perfect, if also perfectly emotionally detached, with dinner conversations that include, “You have lovely hair, too. We all have lovely hair.”

Steven also has an odd friendship/mentorship with a teenage boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan). As Martin begins to insert himself into Steven's family life in increasingly inappropriate ways, a past connection comes to light.

Then things take a turn into even more unsettling waters.

Steven's family dynamic harks back to Lanthimos' 2009 Greek import, “Dogtooth,” which is a pretty good introduction to his work.

His films feel familiar in context, but with something unsettlingly alien about his characters and how they interact. For example, Steven proudly deadpans to a colleague, “Our daughter started menstruating last week,” as if that were a perfectly reasonable thing to say at a dinner party.

Farrell reteams with Lanthimos, and the fact that they're on the same bizarre page works wonders as things get downright biblical. “Sacred Deer” would pair nicely with another divisive 2017 favorite of mine, Darren Aronofsky's “Mother.” Of course, that also means a segment of the audience will leave baffled and angry.

“Sacred Deer” feels like a slow-boiling thriller that could have well been made by Stanley Kubrick, and there's some pitch-black humor that would have made Kubrick proud. Even in the midst of some disturbing tension, I found bursts of probably inappropriate (but intentional) laughter.

Speaking of Kubrick, this is one of Kidman's finest performances ever, and parallels her turn in “Eyes Wide Shut.” The younger actors, led by Koeghan's delightfully creepy Martin, round out a stellar cast.

Unpacking the moral conundrums that play out will probably require a second viewing, but I'm already adding “Sacred Deer” to my short list of best films of the year.

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Opens Friday

5 stars out of 5