- A24 Films
Colin Farrell is a favorite of Lanthimos. He plays Steven, a cardiologist who befriends an odd 16-year-old boy named Martin, played extraordinarily by Irish actor Barry Keoghan, who is perhaps best known as the boy who was accidentally killed on Mr. Dawson’s “little boat” in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. The nature of their friendship is kept hidden from both the audience and Steven’s friends and family, including his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman). Even when Steven introduces Martin to his children, Kim and Bob (portrayed excellently by Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic), we sense something is not quite right. And subsequently, when Bob is struck with an odd form of paralysis, that feeling of dread is justified.
As with most metaphorical absurdism, the plot is secondary to the symbolism. Martin, in an on-the-nose moment, even says so: “Do you understand?” he asks Steven. “It’s a metaphor — it’s symbolic.” Indeed, the story makes annoyingly little sense in the second half, which, like Lanthimos’ last movie, The Lobster, is too long. But by the time you realize the film has fallen almost blissfully into the realm of ridiculousness — such as when Steven tells Bob that, if he doesn’t recover soon, he’ll shave his son’s head and make him eat his hair — you’re too involved to look away.
Anna, in describing her husband’s “clean” hands (which, we discover, are anything but clean), says, “So what if they’re beautiful? They’re lifeless.”
The same could be said of the film, which many filmgoers will find tiresome, especially if they forget it’s an allegory. Unfortunately, Sacred Deer is no Lobster. It’s more like surimi, that tasty fish paste that imitates crab. You feel satisfied and erudite eating it, especially if you dip it in melted butter and play classical music while munching. But it’s fake. Gorgeously fake.