Very few films have left me so stirred in recent years as The Killing of a Sacred Deer by director Yorgos Lanthimos. This acclaimed Greek artist is finally reaching new heights with this odd, period drama on acid. One hopes for Oscar glory here, especially for the performances and almost certainly for the costumes.
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Holt, Joe Alwyn & Mark Gatiss.
119mins | Comedy, Drama, History | 15
We see Queen Anne in the era of Enlightenment (or near enough), whose advisor is Lady Sarah, firm in her duty and passionate in her love for her. Along comes Sarah’s cousin Abigail, on hard times after a life of luxury, sent here to work in the kitchens. She swiftly does the Queen proud by aiding in her health and swiftly gets the new rank of maid and gradually becomes right hand woman for her majesty, manipulating Sarah and making sure she will stay away for good. But will the Queen chose between them? Or both?
This is a period drama with some weird features. The script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is quirky and has some flashes of theatricality, a marker which which he have seen in Lanthimos’ previous work like The Lobster. There are buckets of opaque humour, that won’t be to everyone’s taste, though some silliness and cutting remarks make for titters and near belly laughs. The compelling and exposing cinematography from Robbie Ryan makes extensive use of what appears to be Go Pro cameras, giving a fish eye lens type of vision to the scenes. I cant say I’ve seen many works use this type of aestheticand it is somewhat pleasing to the eye. The excitable pans of the cameras also suck us into the palace’s opulent interiors.
Lanthimos appears to like animals in his films, or at least in name (Dogtooth, The Lobster etc) and here is no different. At least twice, Anne is compared to a badger in the film, once as flattery the other as honest criticism. The Queen keeps 17 rabbits in her bedroom, each named after a child she lost in infancy. She cherishes them like the children she had all lost, though Abigail does some deeply questionable things to one of them towards the end of the film. The final image is a bombardment of rabbits everywhere, as Abigail is kneeling and clutching at Abigail’s scalp.
The film belongs to Olivia Colman, who after grabbing a Golden Globe, is the firm favourite for Best Actress at the Academy Awards (we won’t hold our breath, as they usually get it wrong). Here she wails, screams and grunts, though at times making a regal, if absurd monarch. She seems to have been through so much with her loss of children and her bouts of gout, limited mobility and what appears to be a stroke later on in the film. It remains one of the finest performances of the year. Rachael Weisz and Emma Stone are dripping with poison and a sexual energy, that pelts off the screen. These three leading ladies are what truly make this film shine.
Wise musical selections feature appropriate fare like Vivaldi and Schumann, though the odd inclusion of Olivier Messiaen’s organ music is another great addition to the film. It’s about time this remarkable French composer got to feature in a large production like this, even if it’s in fragments.
Consider The Favourite as essential viewing during this awards season.
All sorts of strange & wonderful.
The Favourite is now on general release.
Photo Credit: Screen Rant