Weirdness for the sake of being weird or off-putting doesn’t do much for me. I kept thinking back to Mother! while watching this film, another movie that I’m sure my film fanatic friends will love but that I, like the slightly-above-average movie-goer, did not. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is also thick with metaphor, and has trouble with actual reality, but it coasts along with tremendous help from some compelling actors. Colin Farrell is Dr. Stephen Murphy, a heart surgeon with an uncomfortable relationship with a teenage boy, Martin (Dunkirk standout Barry Keoghan). Their relationship is left unexplained at first, all we know is they are not related, the Dr. bestows gifts on his young friend, and he’s lying to his friends about who this kid is.
Martin, it turns out, is the son of a former patient of Murphy’s. Martin’s father died in surgery and despite a seemingly familial connection, Martin’s motives turn dark. First, in trying to get Murphy to hook up with Martin’s mom (Alicia Silverstone, too briefly seen), then by getting closer with Martin’s daughter (Raffey Cassidy) and ultimately in trying to balance the scales of death that exist between the families. What follows is a weird series of events that are as implausible as they are unexplained. Nicole Kidman, an actress that is wildly hit-or-miss for me, stars as Farrell’s wife. She is mesmerizing, punctuating every scene with looks, movements and mannerisms that are electrifying. And she would be the standout were it not for Keoghan, whose deadpan delivery juxtaposed with a genial demeanor is haunting and uncomfortable. Honestly, it’s a shame that everyone was instructed to act in the same matter-of-fact way, it robs Keoghan’s performance of a lot of its power.
I knew the first few times that the fourteen-year-old daughter’s first menstrual cycle was mentioned that I was in for something annoying, and the movie kept delivering on that, continually having characters act and react without logic or authenticity. It’s frustrating, especially as the movie continues down this creepy rabbit hole, wrapped in an artificial mystery. Co-writer/Director Yorgos Lanthimos embraced and exploited a dark weirdness for the mostly brilliant The Lobster (also starring Farrell), but where that film had an underlying sweetness to push through the extremes, Deer offers smashed donuts and handjobs (not together, thankfully). Kidman and Keoghan are aces, though.
My Grade – C-