‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

4AsH9jqVsmbsc3RKWj3FwK6gG8dIf you thought director Yorgos Lanthimos’ last film The Lobster was odd and more than a little confronting, wait for this, his latest truly absurdist feature.

Surgeon Colin Farrell (In Bruges, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice, the result of a mistake on the operating table. Looking for justice (or revenge), young Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, ’71) inveigles his way into the doctor’s privileged family, where Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Lion) is more than a little suspicious.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is magnificently and beguilingly uncomfortable, delivery of dialogue flat and emotionless (a Lanthimos trademark), pointed jet-black humour off-kilter, domestic horror and violence taken to an extreme. It’s a harrowing experience (the entire auditorium emptied in silence) yet strangely and unaccountably rewarding.

Rating: 70%

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‘The Beguiled’

timthumb.phpA languid, Southern Gothic psychosexual potboiler as a wounded Yankee soldier (Colin Farrell – In Bruges, Miami Vice) turns up at a Virginia girls school at the height of the American civil war.

His arrival awakens sexual longing for the adult teachers left at the school (Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst) as well as kindles burgeoning sexuality among the girls (particularly Elle Fanning). Erotic, poetic, tense – the southern humidity is palpable in the enclosed, claustrophobic space of the girls’ privileged environment.

The Beguiled, seemingly more expertly teased than directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette), is a beautifully nuanced ensemble piece that, whilst at times a little slow, tells its visceral story with aplomb.

Rating: 73% 

‘Lion’

lion-movie-poster-504x709A superior piece of (based-on-truth) storytelling, Lion avoids overly mawkish sentimentality as adopted 20-something Saroo Brierley searches for his birth mother somewhere in India.

Separated from his family as a young boy, Saroo finds himself in the Tasmanian home of Sue and John Brierley via an orphanage in Calcutta (a fine, Oscar-nominated performance from Nicole Kidman – The Others, Rabbit Hole). But as a young adult, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) needs closure.

With an immensely  respectful and immersive telling of the early stages of the story (some 40 subtitled minutes with 5 year old Saroo), director Garth Davis, in his feature film debut, builds the emotional arc beautifully as the notion of family, identity and home are explored in this thoroughly engrossing film.

Rating: 75%

‘Queen of the Desert’

qotd_posterA somewhat episodic telling of the fascinating story of Gertrude Bell, the Arabian explorer and adventurer who provided insight into the complexities of the region in the early 20th century.

Director Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu the Vampyre) has chosen to simply chronicle Bell’s story (competently played by Nicole Kidman – The Others, Moulin Rouge) resulting in a sumptuous but vapid sweep of the desert. And why focus on Bell’s relationship with men considering everything she achieved?

Rating: 35%

‘Secret in Their Eyes’

Secret-In-Their-Eyes-Poster-2It’s a quiet, solid English-language remake of the Argentinian Oscar-winning best foreign language film from 2009. But the original was hardly a thrill-a-minute revenge drama (and which inexplicably beat out Michael Haneke’s The White Riband and the French entry A Prophet for Oscar gold).

Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich, August: Osage County) is pitch perfect in her bitterness and sorrow at the murder of her beloved daughter, Carolyn, amidst immediate post-9/11 paranoia and fears. But the weak link is the unconvincing relationship between Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian). Are we really to believe they carried a torch for each other over the 13 years of the film. I don’t think so.

It does the job and tells the story – but there’s just no sparkle.

Rating: 54%

‘Before I Go To Sleep’

BeforeIGotoSleepI half-dozed through its first half as it meandered through its somewhat contrived storyline. Startled awake at the midpoint for a few minutes with an unexpected twist and then slumbered (me and the film) for the final reel. Kidman really should stay off the Botox if she wants to be convincing in her emotions!

It’s a bland, unconvincing adaptation by director Rowan Joffe of the best selling novel by S J Watson. Joffe is responsible for scripting 2 other bombs – The American and Brighton Rock – which is a pity as he also bought British films 28 Weeks Later, Gas Attack and Last Resort to the screen.

Rating: 38%