It’s always morbidly enjoyable to be placed into Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ weird worlds of long tracking shots, stilted dialogue and foreboding weirdness, but it may be becoming apparent that he hasn’t exactly got that much to say.
He considers his films comedies, and they’re very funny in a sort of laugh-in-your-head way, but perhaps it would be nice if there was a little more substance behind the uncomfortable atmosphere and black comedy.
His two previously acclaimed films, 2009’s Dogtooth and last year’s The Lobster, had far more intriguing ideas and posed more interesting questions than The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, which seems to essentially boil down to a Greek tragedy, or one of those old folk tales reimagined and remoulded by Lanthimos’ distorted brain.
By the end, it’s worth wondering what the point of it all was, as while it’s easy to become enveloped within the film and its many oddities, the film essentially does very little unexpected for such an ostensibly strange best. As the first 45 minutes unfold, Lanthimos keeps us perched precariously in the dark unknown, as we wonder where this is going to go.
The overtly honest demeanours of characters, the constant full-sentenced dialogue, and the weird sexual foreplay add to the foreboding idea that something is amiss. It’s only when Martin (an excellent, menacing Barry Keoghan) essentially lays out the plot that the film takes shape. Now, although the central conflict is engrossing, it’s sort of been done before and doesn’t exactly offer anything new.
The plot delves into well tread psychological thriller territory, and while Lanthimos knows how to extract dread, fear and all kinds of similarly uncomfortable emotions from his audience, it’s hard to shake the lingering idea that The Killing Of A Sacred Deer hasn’t exactly got much weight behind it’s macabre beauty.
Maybe that is the idea, as Lanthimos is known for his dark-as-can-get humour, and perhaps he sees his films less as deep dives into dense thematic territory begging to be scrupulously combed over and examined, and simply as funny and odd, twisted fables.
Whether that is true or not, there’s no doubt that a cast led by Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, in their second 2017 collaboration after appearing together in Sofia Coppola‘s The Beguiled earlier this year, bring their A-game, especially when it comes to delivering Lanthimos’ patently laboured line delivery that would be very easy to screw up.
For those not familiar with Lanthimos’ previous efforts, this will likely affect them a lot deeper, as it’s unlike practically anything playing in mainstream cinemas right now. For fans of the director, it’s more of the same; enjoyable and delightfully strange, but ultimately a touch underwhelming.
After placing a marker down as an unusual, provocative director to watch within the realm of world cinema with Dogtooth, there’s a lingering fear that Lanthimos may try to simply live on that “weird” label for the bulk of his career. One would hope the director’s next film, whether it contains another animal in the title or not, can offer up something a little meatier.