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The second best Cannes psychological drama starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman to be released in the past five months, both fans and detractors of Yorgos Lanthimos should know what to expect.

Obliquely visited upon unsuspecting audiences, The Killing of A Sacred Deer chronicles Farrell’s successful Surgeon and his relationships with his wife, also an accomplished Doctor (Kidman), their two children and a troubled young man (Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan), soon causing us, and our Surgeon, to question elements of the natural and supernatural.

Farrell’s pensive moping being a staple of Lanthimos’ much shrewder The Lobster is here an indefatigable visual fall-back throughout, that being whenever the Director isn’t otherwise hell-bent on closed shots of the ambling nonplussed, or of each and every character staring into the distance between rounds of awkward dialogue. The unrealistic repartee fairly being a design of Lanthimos’ particular breed of tension, the clear metaphorical nature of much of the film’s ramblings if heralded in some quarters as the continuation of a redoubtable classical tradition is here, as with so many ancient musings, roundly reliant on the sidelining of necessarily engaging dramatic fixtures and anything even remotely resembling how real people would actually speak.

Allowing the key performers to realise their dialogue in a manner more accommodating of their natural accents than they are traditionally allowed along with Nicole Kidman’s excellent performance being among the film’s few saving graces, the tonal and stylistic flourishes ultimately evince a morbid, interminable affair. The captivating aerial shots aside, obscuring the focus on so much of the action, if intended to discombobulate, notably detracts from the empathy we are excepted to feel for the film’s few figures.

The ending, appreciably something that could early have been conceived as the film’s central set piece or otherwise the key denouement for which nearly all else must forebode, even within the thwarted logic of The Killing of a Sacred Deer makes little sense. A shocking vignette which could have salvaged the film had its antecedents been duly established, statements the characters make and actions taken inherently contradict the staging of what is, while morbidly and uniquely comic, an inconsistent finale to an ill-judged venture.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is in cinemas now

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