The Killing of a Sacred Deer

tkoasd“Our children are dying, but yes, I can make you mashed potatoes.”—it is a line that typifies the strange world of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. His films are clinically measured without an ounce of extra fat and feel like they sit somewhere on the autistic spectrum of film-making, if there was such a thing. His previous outing, The Lobster, with its blunt and robotic dialogue, was as peculiar as it was amusing and The Killing of a Sacred Deer is tonally much the same, if perhaps a little more disturbing.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a seemingly emotionless film, detached and devoid of any warmth. You’d think it has little to offer, but its world of odd characters and absurd situations offer a rewarding mix of dark comedy and painful catharsis.  Steven (Colin Farrell), a renowned cardiovascular surgeon, and his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), an ophthalmologist, are happily married with two children. When a patient dies on Steven’s operating table he feels duty-bound to take the dead patient’s son, Martin (Barry Keoghan), under his wing. However, when Steven’s own children begin suffering a clinically unexplainable condition things begin to unravel. Steven’s relationship with Martin takes a peculiar and sinister turn when Martin offers Steven a horrific solution to their problem.

Farrell and Kidman offer typically measured performances, but the real surprise is Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), whose portrayal as Martin feels like watching a toddler with his hand on the proverbial nuclear button. It is a tour de force of uneasy acting that delivers the perfect balance of ambivalence and malevolent intention—his character taking on an almost biblical role (suggestive of the binding of Isaac) that is central to the film’s exploration of what it means to atone for our transgressions.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer will no doubt divide its audience. The awkward mix of unconventional storytelling and inaccessible characters might be too impenetrable for some. For others (myself included), The Killing of a Sacred Deer remains a macabre psychological satire told in a very unique and refreshing way.
   

You can see my published reviews here.

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Wonder

wonderIn a family friendly version of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, director Stephen Chbosky has negotiated the foggy area between trite and truth in this engaging tale of triumph over adversity. It’s been a while between films for Chbosky who gave us the surprisingly good The Perks of Being a Wallflower back in 2012.  His latest outing is an adaptation of R.J. Palacio’s best selling novel Wonder—if you haven’t heard of it, your kids probably have.

Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a ten-year-old boy deformed from birth due to a genetic disorder.  Having been shielded from the cruel taunts of the school playground, his homeschooling parents (played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts) feel it time to integrate Auggie into public school life.  The film is rife with harsh realities and tender moments as Auggie (and the people around him) adjust to the change.  Jacob Tremblay (Room) does a commendable job of playing the lead and presents a broad range of emotions despite the difficulties of dealing with a ton of facial prosthetic makeup.

Although Auggie provides the film with its narrative momentum, Wonder’s strength lies in how his circumstances affect, and ultimately inspire others; his sister dealing with being the forgotten sibling, the classmates who learn to accept him and others who reject him—they all learn important lessons brought about through self-examination.

Other than a chaptered structure which introduces the main players and their point-of-view, and a dusting of magical realism throughout, Wonder prudently avoids getting too caught up in the artifice of film, electing instead to tell its story simply and cleanly.

Wonder is not without a few false steps—Auggie’s dad (Owen Wilson) is relegated to a comic relief role which misses a unique opportunity to examine a father-son relationship, and moments throughout the film are prone to being too maudlin. Despite this, Wonder’s emotive qualities caught me off guard, and try as a might, I couldn’t keep a dry eye … some chilli-flakes must’ve fallen into my popcorn.

  

You can see my published reviews here.