Irish Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

DIR: Yorgos Lanthimos • WRI: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Fillipou • PRO: Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrew Lowe • DOP: Thimos Bakatakis • DES: Jade Healy • Ed: Yorgos Mavropsaradis • CAST: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone

Steven Murphy (Farrell) is an affluent surgeon, married to Anna (Kidman) and with two children Kim (Cassidy) and Bob (Suljic). Steven also has a strange relationship with a teenage boy Martin (Keoghan). They meet up for meals, Steven gives Martin presents. As events progress it becomes clear that Steven may feel a debt of responsibility towards Martin over a botched operation he performed on his father. When Steven introduces Martin to his family, a surreal, piercing, complex cycle of revenge is set in motion.

Working once again with Element Pictures, Lanthimos retains and expands upon his singular authorial style with this gripping, formally brilliant, cruelly hilarious art-thriller. The film veers closer to genre than Lanthimos’ other work but it retains his signature style and off-kilter humour. The deadpan delivery seen in his other work is retained here but there is a little bit more emotion allowed in the actors’ delivery. The film has a real uncompromising edge in how nasty it can be, something which is particularly heartening to see in an Irish production.

In terms of Lanthimos’ humour, this is a filmmaker, in keeping with others such as Luis Buñuel or Todd Solondz, who has a genuine knack of making one laugh riotously at the saddest and cruellest aspects of life. Elements of his trademark flat dialogue allow for the absurdity of life situations, no matter how horrific, to shine true when vacated of emotion. Lanthimos is also always keen to point out the baseness of people’s motives; a character is forced to perform a sexual favour on a colleague in exchange for information in a situation of immense crisis, Steven responds to Martin’s claims, not with reasoning but with anger and threat of violence.

Also interesting is how Lanthimos paints the relationships within the Murphy family unit and how this plays into the tale as it unfolds. It is clear that both Steven and Anna favour a different one of their children, something which enriches a later dilemma proposed to them. Lanthimos also draws attention to the underlying animalism inherent in the family unit by showing that Steven’s sexual preferences are for Anna to pretend that she is under anaesthetic while he has sex with her. Martin’s unfolding revenge on Steven could be seen as a commentary on class relations and responsibility. The film could also be interpreted as a religious allegory, however like Lanthimos’ other films, the beauty of the film lies in its ambiguity, its attention to details and the questions it raises.

Barry Keoghan is the standout in a uniformly excellent cast, striking a perfect balance between tragic vulnerability and otherworldly menace. An exceptional scene sees him deliver a lightning fast explanation to Steven as to what exactly he plans for his family. Farrell, once again, excels under this filmmaker, imbuing his character with a rich combination of guilt and arrogance. Kidman’s excellent qualities are also fitting for Lanthimos’ style; illustrating a strong character, eliciting some sympathy but also retaining an iciness and an unpredictability. There are also two outstanding young performances in Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic, as Steven’s children, who prove integral to Martin’s strategy of retribution.

Formally this is Lanthimos’ most accomplished film to date. Thimos Bakatakis’ supreme, Kubrickian cinematography is composed in a clinical, ominous way with frequent long takes and brooding tracking shots. Jade Healy’s production design is equally evocative of the strange, disquieting world of the film. Lanthimos’ use of music, too, brilliantly contributes to the sense of unease. This is a film with an invigorating, unshakeable formal ambience.

A nasty, hilarious, distinctive treat. Highly recommended.

David Prendeville




120 minutes
16 (See IFCO for details)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is released 3rd  November 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Official Website




Trailer: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos’ highly anticipated The Killing of a Sacred Deer  will be released in cinemas on November 3rd .

Lanthimos has crafted a sensational thriller brimming with unsettling humour and creeping dread, steeped in Greek tragedy, existential horror, Hitchcockian psychodrama, and riveting suspense. Darting confidently between genres to subvert our expectations at every turn, The Killing of a Sacred Deer firmly cements Lanthimos in the pantheon of world-class auteurs and marks him as a cinematic provocateur without precedent.

Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon presiding over a spotless household with his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two exemplary children, 12-year-old Bob (Sunny Suljic ) and 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen who Steven has covertly taken under his wing. As Martin begins insinuating himself into the family’s life in ever-more unsettling displays, the full scope of his intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long forgotten transgression that will shatter the Murphy family’s domestic bliss.

The film was produced by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe’s Element Pictures, the producers of The Lobster and Oscar-winner Room. It was financed by Film4 and the Irish Film Board, who also were financiers of The Lobster , and New Sparta Films, whose involvement was brokered by HanWay Films. The project was developed by Element Pictures and Film4. HanWay Films are the worldwide sales agent.




Irish-Backed ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ Wins @ Cannes


Yorgos Lanthimos and  Efthymis Filippou have picked up the award for Best Screenplay at the closing ceremony of the 70th Cannes Film Festival for the Irish-backed The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The prize was shared with Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer was produced by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe’s Element Pictures. Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthymis Filippou, co-wrote the project, which was shot last Autumn in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Speaking from Cannes, Element Pictures Producer Ed Guiney commented that “All of us at Element are absolutely delighted with the script prize for Efthymis and Yorgos. Yorgos has made a masterful signature film which will enthrall audiences around the world. We are very grateful to all of our financiers including Film4, New Sparta, Hanway and the Irish Film Board”

The Killing of a Sacred Deer  sees Colin Farrell reunite with Lanthimos. Farrell stars as Steven, a charismatic surgeon forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart when the behaviour of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing takes a sinister turn. Nicole Kidman also stars as the wife of Farrell’s character, along with young, Irish actor Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy , Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp and Alicia Silverstone.

The film is financed by Film4 and New Sparta Films along with the Irish Film Board. The project was developed by Element Pictures with support from Film4. HanWay Films is worldwide sales agent with A24 on board as US distributor.


Cannes 2017: full list of winners

Caméra d’Or (best first feature)

Jeune Femme (Montparnasse-Bienvenüe) (dir: Léonor Serraille)

Best short film

A Gentle Night (dir: Qiu Yang)

Best screenplay

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (dir: Yorgos Lanthimos); You Were Never Really Here (dir: Lynne Ramsay)

Jury prize

Loveless (dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev)

Best actress

Diane Kruger, In the Fade (dir: Fatih Akin)

Best actor

Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here (dir: Lynne Ramsay)

Best director

Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

Grand Prix

120 Beats per Minute (dir: Robin Campillo)

70th Anniversary prize

Nicole Kidman

Palme d’Or

The Square (dir: Ruben Östlund)