Cincinnati-filmed ‘Sacred Deer’ makes its Cannes debut

Early reviews of the psychological thriller are strong, and studio A24 plans to release the film on Nov. 3.

click to enlarge Cincinnati-filmed ‘Sacred Deer’ makes its Cannes debut
Photo: Courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival
The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the Cincinnati-filmed psychological thriller from the director and star of last year’s perverse hit The Lobster, made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday and early reviews are strong. 

One approval came in a short video that Kristen Schlotman, Film Cincinnati executive director, made in Cannes just after the preview: “(It’s) one of the greatest movies to come out of Cincinnati because Cincinnati was the star,” she said. “The locations were unbelievable; there was no denying it was filmed right there in Greater Cincinnati.”

The Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, working with his co-writer Efthimis Filippou, came to Cincinnati last year to shoot the film, a drama/horror story about a Sophie’s Choice-like decision that a prominent doctor (Colin Farrell) must make involving his family (Nicole Kidman plays his wife). Lanthimos and Filippou received an Academy Award nomination this year for their Lobster screenplay; the same studio behind that, A24, plans to release Sacred Deer on Nov. 3.

There are reports that Sacred Deer polarized the Cannes crowd, however, and even some of its positive reviews from the press pointed out that it’s not a popcorn movie for the masses.

“This is an art film, after all, and though Lanthimos is within his rights to challenge and provoke, his seemingly cold-hearted approach to an impossible conundrum makes for an undeniably tough sit,” says Peter Debruge, Variety’s chief film critic.

But he went on to write: “However, because it stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as its central couple, the film stands a real chance at finding an audience — especially considering the recent original screenplay Oscar nomination for The Lobster. …That said, it’s hardly your conventional horror movie.”

According to Cannes reviews, Farrell plays a Cincinnati cardiologist/surgeon whose life with his wife and two children is interrupted by a mysterious 16-year-old boy (Barry Keoghan), whose father died on Farrell’s operating table. The boy says that Farrell must now kill one of his own family members, or all three will die. It all builds to a “horrific” (according to reviews) ending involving a hunting rifle. The movie reportedly is inspired by an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis, in which the goddess of the hunt Artemis orders Agamemnon to kill his eldest daughter to make amends for an offense. 

“Reaching back to classical Greek tragedy for inspiration, this hypnotic tale of guilt and retribution provides an even more riveting role for Colin Farrell after his collaboration on the director's English-language debut, The Lobster,” wrote Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney. “He's flanked by a never-better Nicole Kidman and a performance of chilling effectiveness from emerging Irish talent Barry Keoghan in a thriller that frequently invites comparison to vintage Polanski.”

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