A blackly comic performance by Colin Farrell provides the emotional anchor for Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer. As clinically detached surgeon Steven Murphy, Farrell effortlessly switches from arch, quasi-robotic line readings to frantic, plate-smashing furor. His skillful transition from deep-in-denial emotional repression to manic rage is crucial to the film's success, as Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou's characters don't talk like anyone you've ever met in real life.
When Steven, his family, and a mysterious friend, Martin (Barry Keoghan), speak to each other, they fixate on nothing of real importance. They dwell on trivial subjects, and the questions they ask each other—about everything from gauging someone's fondness for lemonade to whether or not someone else prefers leather or metal as a watchstrap—are bleakly funny when you consider that the film begins with a confrontationally gross close-up of a beating human heart, exposed during one of Steven's characteristically dangerous procedures. It's clear right away that this atmospheric horror-thriller's dramatic stakes are as high as life and death. So why is it that these characters can't stop talking about food and household chores?