I can’t speak from experience, but becoming a parent would change one’s view on life. Ideally, the parent would want to do anything they can to protect their children, but what happens when they need to choose to sacrifice somebody they love in order to let the rest of their family live? Could you do it? Could you choose between your children or your wife? It’s a confronting moral dilemma, one nobody would want to be in, but it’s this disturbing scenario that Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou latch onto with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, their follow up to 2015’s Oscar-nominated The Lobster.
Life here feels like it’s on an alternate plane of existence. The dialogue is deliberately stilted and somewhat artificial, creating a constant sense of unease and mistrust. Every character’s most humane moments derive from bursts of anger and frustration. It’s here where their dialogue flows in a more natural, if not equally unsettlingly way. But there’s something inherently fascinating within every line spoken. A mere exchange about watches is as funny as it is disturbing, and it’s a pattern that Lanthimos and Filippou follow through with until the film’s very end.
Yet the biggest surprise with this film is just how funny it can be. There’s a strange sense of humour injected throughout, where you’re never sure if you’re allowed to laugh, and if you do, you instantly feel bad about it. One scene depicts Kim begging her dying brother to let her keep his MP3 player if he dies. Another scene sees Steven dragging his paralysed son around the hospital by the waist in an unsuccessful attempt to get him walking again, all before describing an instance when he was younger in which he jacked off his father in his sleep. Nothing is treated as a comedy. A lot of it may even go over audience’s heads, but there’s certainly a black sense of humour afoot.
A few spoiler-filled scenes I can’t discuss here aren’t as impactful as I would’ve liked, one extended sequence in particular, but they all add to the ever-lasting mood of the film. Not every question gets answered, but part of the terror is that they don’t need to be. It’s all one big, grim and haunting nightmare that I’m unlikely to ever forget.
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