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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 10.04.17] United Kingdom thriller drama

They say that our perspective of the world is shaped by our experiences; I can't begin to imagine what terrible tragedy struck writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos. In his latest exploration of the human psyche, Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou tackle the concept of revenge in one of the most fascinating and disquieting ways possible.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a title that I only partly understand, stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell as Anna and Steven Murphy, a married couple with two lovely children. She's a dentist, he's a doctor, the kids are well adjusted - in short, the perfect family. Into this comes Martin (Barry Keoghan) a young man who happens to be the son of a former patient of Farrell's - a patient who is now dead; presumably at the hands of Dr. Murphy.

Lanthimos' latest is very much in keeping with his previous movies, particularly The Lobster: simple ideas which are explored from a unique perspective. In this case, Lanthimos takes a set-up which reminded me of something like The Box or Sophie's Choice; a situation where someone has to make an impossible decision in which there is always a loser. In this case, the Murphy's must decide which of their kids is going to die and if they can't decide, the entire family will perish. Talk about difficult decisions.

Farrell and Kidman are at their best here in their second team-up of the year. Their performances are cold and detached on the surface but are teeming with emotion just behind the facade. Lanthimos continues to employ a very detached performance style which is reminiscent of Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira's later films. This approach has a two fold effect: it creates a separation between the audience and the absurdity of the situation unfolding on screen which in turn allows the audience to interact with the themes with a clear perspective because we can't really relate to what's happening on screen.

Into this stew Lanthimos adds some interesting observations and commentary on the relationship dynamics between couples, siblings, families as well as taking a jab at the rich by noting that some problems can't be solved by throwing money at them.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is not a movie for everyone but then, Lanthimos doesn't make easily accessible food for the masses. His work is very much an acquired taste and those of us with the right appetite, will not be disappointed.

A fascinating, often hilarious and occasionally disturbing piece of filmmaking, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is another win for a director who seems determined to tell stories his own way. Thank goodness someone is still willing to let him tell them.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer opens in limited release on October 20.

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Recommended Release: The Lobster

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