Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is the master of thought-provoking lessons in discomfort – arthouse films designed to repulse and amuse in equal measure, a trend that continues with his latest effort. His second English language film is a psychological horror as divisive as anything he’s ever made, a modern day parable loosely based on an ancient Greek play. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star as a married couple whose idyllic suburban existence is disrupted by a creepy teenager with an unthinkable ultimatum.
After a career best performance in the director’s previous film The Lobster Farrell is excellent again here, managing to offer the barest hints of desperation and chaos while always adhering to the static, monotone deliveries Lanthimos demands from his actors. He’s paired with a brilliantly restrained Kidman, who seamlessly slides into the distinctive world Lanthimos is able to create. Surprisingly though, it’s Irish actor Barry Keoghan who steals the movie. His turn as the spine-tinglingly eerie teenager Martin burns itself into the viewer’s memory from the moment he first appears onscreen.
This isn’t as ingeniously conceived or uncomfortably funny as The Lobster or even his 2009 breakthrough Dogtooth, but Lanthimos’ disturbing genius lingers over everything here. The pitch black humour he’s known for still has the ability to make an audience squirm like nothing else, while the movie’s warped edges are sure to scare off cinema-goers expecting any kind of standard thriller. This is undeniably difficult viewing, almost as bizarre as his previous work and no less confronting. Lanthimos infuses it with enough dark themes of guilt, responsibility and consequences to ensure you’ll be thinking about it for days afterwards. It’s another in a growing list that proves once again he’s easily the most interesting director alive – The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is surreal, antagonizing and incredible.