The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

August 25th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos | Cast: Colin Farell, Nicole Kidman,  Barry Keoghan | Drama | Greece | 101min 

Has Greek New Wave director Yorgos Lanthimos gone too far in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A film that would have us believe that all families are essentially dysfunctional, and all men psychopaths. His latest is set in a sleek but soulless Cincinnati, Ohio in the run up to Christmas. Colin Farrell is an Irish heart surgeon who performs, as many do, to soaring choral music, adding a Kubrickian touch to the film’s bleak opening scene where open heart surgery is being wound up before blood-stained gloves and garb are then thrown into a bin. This sets the tone for a disquieting and starkly alienating parable that examines the human drive to escape death.

Farrell plays Steven Murphy, on the surface a loving husband and family man who has developed a weird friendship with a teenage boy that grows more bizarre as the film unfolds. It soon emerges the boy’s father died on the operating table when Murphy was the surgeon. Left with his unemployed mother, Martin is a young man with a grudge. Later in a speech Murphy tells how the doctor involved in the first heart transplant, Andreas Gruentzig, died in a plane crash: “The operation was successful, but the doctor didn’t make it”.

There’s a horrible feeling throughout the film that the Sword of Damocles is going to fall on Steven, (to use an apposite anecdote from Greek mythology) and all because of Martin (Barry Keoghan) who feels resentful and envious, and puts a curse on the family. Keoghan is a particularly chilling psychopath, but so is Farrell when he puts his mind to it in the final scenes. MT

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