Cannes Diary 7 – Clockwork Toys, Existential Thrillers

Posted on June 5, 2017


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I couldn’t stop thinking about The Lobster days after watching it (that ending: did he? didn’t he?), so my response to Yorgos Lanthimos’ follow-up, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, may be the result of sky-high expectations – but I think the film really is a huge disappointment. Colin Farrell plays Steven, a surgeon who befriends a teenager (Martin, played by Barry Keoghan), and this causes havoc back home. (Nicole Kidman plays Steven’s wife; she’s excellent.) It has to do with Martin’s father. To tell more would be to kill what little interest there is in this one-note premise (actions have consequences), but I should mention Martin’s mother, who holds a torch for Steven. One evening after dinner, when he gets up to leave before dessert, she gets hysterical. “I can’t let you leave until you have tried my tart.” I got hysterical too.

The story, as in The Lobster, centres on a gimmicky conceit, but that film was coloured by a wonderful weirdness. Everything, everyone was so… absurd that things fit together, felt right. Here, Lanthimos plays it too straight – for the most part, it’s like a routine (and frankly dull) domestic drama, and the eerieness of the Stephen King-meets-Fatal Attraction-meets-Sophie’s Choice design doesn’t catch. Lanthimos slathers on the effects – jangly music, robotic line readings – but everything is external. Nothing emerges from within. Sacred Deer is a clockwork toy. It feels mechanical. The final scenes should have been harrowing, but I merely felt manipulated, and not in a good way.

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