I took a lot of notes for this one, and have a lot to say about this film, so this might run long.
The film opens with a sombre classical piece over a black screen, starting us off with a good idea of the tone of the film. The first thing we see is a close up of a real heart undergoing surgery. The camera is uncomfortably close here, something that Lanthimos does throughout the film, all of the close ups are too close, making it feel like the characters are invading your own personal space. The camera then starts to slowly track away from the heart, like the spirit of the patients is leaving the body to haunt the hospital. Then we see Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a heart surgeon, removing his bloody gloves and throwing them in the trash, literally washing the blood off of his hands. Very symbolic, considering things we learn later on.
Then we cut to a long shot down a hospital corridor of Steven and his anesthesiologist, Matthew (Bill Camp). As well as the uncomfortable close-ups, this is another type of shot you see a lot in this film, the very distant long shot that feels voyeuristic, like we're spying on the characters. The way the camera tracks through the corridor, very slow and measured, reminds me of the way Kubrick shot the hotel in The Shining; the way that The Overlook felt haunted by the ghosts of past guests, here, the hospital feels haunted by former patients. Throughout all of this Steven and Matthew are having a very bland conversation about watches; strap types, how deep can it go, etc. This is important, however, and gives us an idea as to the main theme of the film, fate. Just like time keeps on ticking and there's nothing we can do about it, so do the events that transpire later.
In this scene we also get the first taste of the very distinct line delivery that you get from every actor in this film. This is something that Lanthimos does in every film of his to varying degrees, some have much more emotion than this. In this film everyone speaks with little emotion in an almost monotone. This is very divisive, some people hate it, some love it. Me, I love it. For me, it allows you to see the emotion in the performances physically, rather than the actors using their voice. It also adds to the very sterile, controlled style in this film particularly. The main character is a surgeon, and as such, everything about the film is done with precision.
We then see Steven in a diner, waiting for someone. The camera here is behind him, and slowly creeps up on him, and this is how we're introduced to Martin (Barry Keoghan), so we're immediately uneasy with him just from the direction. Steven offers him some money, which seems strange. For a long time their relationship is a mystery, how do they know each other? Why is Steven giving him money? It's all very uncomfortable. This is made more uncomfortable by their conversation. Just like in the previous scene the dialogue is about very bland, boring subjects; haircuts, saving the fries for last. All through this we cut between close ups of the two, uncomfortably close close-ups.
They're then seen hanging out by the river. Martin says "sorry I was late today" telling us that they have been meeting for a while. Steven then gives him an expensive watch, the same kind he was talking about with Matthew. The way Steven has offered him money and now given him this watch feels like him trying to buy Martin off, but we still don't know why. Martin, upon getting the watch, says "can I give you a hug?", but the way he says it and the way he goes in without a reply from Steven makes it feel less like a request and more like a demand, and he knows that Steven won't say no. First mention of the soundtrack here, real high strings not really playing a melody, but playing a mood. Most of the original score for this film is like that, very ambient percussion and distorted strings, again, very Kubrickian.
There's a nice transition here from a slow zoom in on Steven and Martin to a slow zoom into the family's house, seeing them through the window. It's now night-time, so there's a nice contrast between light and dark, almost implying that Steven is living a double life. He's having dinner with his family, wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and son Bob (Sunny Suljic). Their home feels very sterile, almost as much as the hospital, with everything in its place and every surface gleaming. It's almost a parody of a perfect upper-class suburban home. Their conversation is also sterile and bland, like every other conversation so far, talking about buying a new couch and Bob getting a haircut. Anna has a great line here at the end of the scene. Kim gets jealous of her brother after Anna compliments his hair, and Anna, to placate her, says "we all have lovely hair". I found that so sinister and honestly, I can't really say why, it just stuck with me.
Anna is now getting ready for bed, talking to Steven about more bland things, a new dress, lemon cake. It's also revealed that Bob wants to be an ophthalmologist, just like her. She then strips to her underwear, asks Steven "general anesthetic?" before lying prone on the bed, unmoving and unresponsive, their love life as sterile as the rest of their lives. All the while the camera slowly creeps in.
We then cut to Steven walking through the hospital, the camera high up and following him closely, again giving the feeling of some spirit haunting him. The music here also reminded me of the high pitched tension music from Ghostbusters, which, I guess, adds to the spooky feeling He finds Martin waiting for him, and tries to scold him for coming unannounced. Martin is very apologetic here, but his tone doesn't sound apologetic, he almost sounds like he's challenging Steven when he says sorry. Back in the family home we see Steven, dressed up in a tux, in Kim's room watching her practice her scales, because of course a daughter in a family like this would be in a choir. I love the look of genuine pride in Steven's face when she finishes and he applauds her. The camera in this scene is very static, like a fly on the wall kind of feel, which you see a lot in scenes in the house. It kind of reminds me of Norman Bates watching people through a peephole in Psycho, very intrusive and voyeuristic.
Steven was dressed up as he is to give a speech at a fancy banquet. This shows us his status and the respect he has in the medical community. But his speech is like the rest of his conversations so far, very sterile and now full of technical jargon that makes it hard to understand for outsiders. In this scene we also learn that he has given up drinking, indicating a past problem. I like how in this scene Anna seems to be mothering him, saying that he can't stay out late because "he's got surgery in the morning". There's also a shock when Steven and Anna are talking to a colleague when Steven nonchalantly remarks "our daughter started menstruating last week". This is met with no response, giving the impression that these peoples lives are so bland and numbed that even saying something like that won't bother anyone.
The next day we're following Steven and Martin, who are walking along the river, with a very low angle tracking shot, like some monster is stalking them, ready to pounce. During their conversation Martin peppers in things like "that's what my dad used to say", and "ever since my father died..." all the while the camera is on Steven's face and he is starting to look troubled. We're also starting to get a better idea of their relationship, and it seems to be based on guilt. Steven invites Martin over to his house out of guilt, escalating the kind of present he's been giving him, first money, then the watch, now inviting him into his home. We see that Martin accepted in the next shot, where we see him, from a distance, at their door with a bunch of flowers. There's a slow zoom in on the house as Anna opens the door, like she's letting in more than just Martin.
Along with the flowers, he has bought presents for Kim and Bob, ingratiating him with the family. He goes to hang out with the kids in Kim's room, smoking a cigarette because he's a bad influence, where she unabashedly tells him "I just got my first period". This again goes without any kind of reaction. Bob then asks to see Martin's armpit hair, because he's older than him. Martin pulls up his shirt to show him, and Bob tells him that his father is much hairier than him. Kim then tells him "you've got a great body", again with no reaction. This is so awkward, not just because of the dialogue and the delivery, but I think it really highlights how awkward those years can be.
Kim and Martin go for a walk together, following them from behind in eerie silence. This silence is broken by Kim singing the song Burn by Ellie Goulding. She's stood in front of a tree while Martin is sat on the grass in front of her, watching her intently. The song has the line "when the lights turned out, they don't know what they heard" and "we're gonna let it burn", and the way that Kim is singing it acappella makes it sound so ominous, even though it's a throwaway pop song. Back in the house, with everyone gathered in the lounge talking, Martin drops in a few lines to needle Steven, "my mom hasn't made lemonade in a while" and "I don't like leaving my mom by hereself". Again, during all of this, the close ups are way too close, making the whole thing a lot more uncomfortable.
Later that night Steven and Anna are getting ready for bed, and Anna asks him "how did his (Martin's) father die". Steven replies very quickly, "car crash, died instantly", and the camera lingers on Anna's face, a mask of doubt falling over it as she, and we as an audience, start to think that he's lying. Martin then phones Steven, at what seems like a disrespectfully late hour, asserting his dominance over Steven, which he has been doing very subtly since the start of the film. He invites Steven over to his house, as thanks for being invited to his, but he only invites Steven, and it isn't really an invite, it's a demand.
We see Steven leaving the hospital, driving through the car park, where he thinks he sees Martin watching him, but, arriving at Martin's house, he denies ever being there. This is the point in the film where Martin really starts to shine as the antagonist, his manipulations and his brash openness about what he's doing and what's happening is truly terrifying. We then meet Martin's Mother (Alicia Silverstone). She seems over eager to have Steven in her home, and seems to be over eager to have him there, like Martin has told her that Steven wants to be with her. Martin insists on watching a movie, and when Steven declines Martin guilts him by saying "it's also my father's favourite movie, too".
We cut to them sat awkwardly watching Groundhog Day, another film all about fate, and how inescapable it is. Martin goes to leave halfway through, and demands another hug from Steven. Martin's mother then starts to talk to Steven, saying how nice and clean his hands are, alluding to the start of the film, and how he has abdicated himself from any responsibility for her husbands death. She then starts kissing his hands, then she starts sucking on his thumb, at which point he bolts up and makes to leave. At this, Martin's Mother says "he wants this as much as I do", indicating that Martin has been talking about Steven to her as if he's a father figure, maybe his plan is to replace his father with the man who killed his father. Steven repeats that he's leaving, at which point I got a huge laugh out of Martin's Mother saying "I won't let you leave until you try my tart" which is as tragic as it is funny, as all throughout this scene Martin's Mother is painted as a very hurt, lonely, and emotionally damaged woman.
Steven is walking through the hospital, again we're tracking him from a high angle from behind, the ghost shot. He walks into his office only to find Martin waiting for him, again asserting his dominance, since Steven told him earlier to stop meeting him there. Martin complains of some chest pains, so demands to be tested, knowing that Steven can't say no. When Steven tries to tell him that he's a healthy young man and will probably be ok Martin says "my father could've come out of that surgery alive, but he died", followed by a long slow zoom in on Steven's face. By now the audience should be in no doubt as to their relationship, and it's clear that Martin will take every advantage he can because of that.
He is put through some tests, after which he is left alone in the office with Steven. Martin is shirtless, and asks to see Steven's body hair, to compare. He says please, but again, it's a demand not a request. Steven shows him, at which point Martin belittles him by saying he's not as hairy as he thought he would be, not nearly as hairy as Bob made out he was. He then starts talking about his mother, telling Steven "she's got a great body", the camera slowly zooming in on him as he says that, revelling in how uncomfortable he's making Steven.
A hard cut to a close up of a fish being cut up by Matthew, a much messier version of the surgery scene that started the film, showing how messy the situation is getting. Steven and Anna are over for a barbecue, but Martin calls up, at which point Steven lies to him, saying he can't talk as he's busy at work. Matthew then tells Steven that he saw Martin at the hospital, but just ignored him when he said hello. Steven tries to play off that it wasn't him, because he told him not to go there anymore, but there is a clear look of unease on his face. He can't get away from Martin, he is the physical manifestation of fate.
Back at his house Steven is sat in the lounge when Kim arrives home. She informs him that Martin bought her home from choir practice on his motorbike, but he couldn't come in because he was in a hurry. We then see Martin sat outside the house on his motorbike, watching them. This is a great shot, the slow pan around Martin on his bike revealing the house bathed in shadow, as the last light in the windows goes out, like the last bit of hope has left them. It's all downhill from here.
The next morning Bob is in bed late, Anna says "he just likes lying in bed after he wakes up", but Steven seems annoyed, thinking he just wants to skip school. He marches up to his room, calling "Robert", and you know when a parent uses your full name you're in trouble. But when he gets to Bob's room he sees him just sat on the edge of the bed. There's a shot of Bob from just outside his door that slowly zooms in on him as he looks up and tells his dad "I can't get up". There's a real hopelessness in this delivery and the look on his face here, as well as Steven's reaction, like there's some realisation there that this is connected to Martin.
We then get a montage of Bob in hospital getting all kinds of tests accompanied by a very creepy percussion score, again very much like Kubrick. All of the tests come back normal, so he is discharged, Steven trying to play it off as Bob being nervous about a test at school. As Anna and Bob leave the hospital we get another tracking shot, again like they're being stalked. The shot then changes to an overhead of them riding down an escalator, when they get to the bottom we have a total birds-eye view, the percussion building up a huge amount of tension until Bob collapses on the floor, very sudden and shocking, the music stinging when it happens. The camera stays in this distant overhead view, representing the helplessness that Anna feels in the scene, there's nothing we, nor her, can do.
We get more scenes of Bob being tested, and cradled in bed by Anna. Meeting with the doctors, they say all of the tests are fine, and Steven again tries to play it off as nothing. We then see Kim riding around the city with Martin on his motorbike, the footage slightly slo-mo and ominous drum rolls giving a nightmarish quality to the scene. We get a close up of her face and there are tears welling up in her eyes. Perhaps her grief for Bob is pushing her towards Martin for comfort. She arrives home to find Anna watering the plants, Bob's job. This is what life is like without him.
A low tracking shot of Anna and Steven walking through the hospital on their way to visit Bob. As they round his door the camera pans to reveal Martin already there. As soon as he enters the room Steven never takes his eyes off of Martin, wary of his presence. Martin demeans Bob, telling his parents "he wet the bed", again with no shame. As he goes to leave, he whispers in Steven's ear "come to the cafeteria today, don't stand me up" indicating that he has been trying to meet with Steven for a while, and has now had to resort to drastic measures.
In the cafe, he gives Steven a present, saying as he passes it over "it's a Swiss army knife. I've just ruined the surprise". He doesn't sound at all sorry about ruining the surprise. He then says "I'm really sorry about Bob", which seems genuine. When Steven replies "it's nothing serious" Martin says "no, it is" and it is chilling, the way he's looking right in Steven's eyes, and saying it so coolly. He then goes on to explain to Steven that he has to kill a member of his family, just like he killed a member of Martin's family. If he doesn't do it soon Bob, Kim and Anna will all go through the same thing. First, paralysis of the limbs, then refusal of food to the point of starvation, then bleeding from the eyes, then death. If Steven doesn't kill one person, all three will die. After telling Steven all of this he says "there, I said it as quickly as I could, I hope I haven't kept you too long" like he didn't like telling him that. This brings up an interesting point about this film, is Martin the architect of this tragic fate, or is he just the messenger?
We then get a slow zoom in on Steven's face, distorted, wavering strings representing his state of mind as he processes what he just heard. We then cut to Martin being escorted out of the hospital by security, he has now been marked as an enemy. Then we follow Steven as he enters Bob's room and sits on the couch at the back. The camera slowly tracks in on him as he's talking to Anna, pushing through the doorway as Steven gets up and walks over to Bob's bed, where we're now creeping up over his shoulder, another creeping ghost in the hospital. Steven then tries to make Bob eat a donut, to prove Martin wrong, but Bob refuses. At this Steven loses it and tries to force the donut into Bob's mouth. This scene was really uncomfortable to watch, as this parent, in trying to help his child, seems to be hurting him. He's in full desperation mode now.
We then see Kim applying lip gloss and making herself pretty for Martin. They are hanging out in her room talking when he asks her "are you on your period?". She stands up in front of him, and we get the fly on the wall shot again as she uncomfortably strips to her underwear and lies prone on her bed, just like Anna does. Martin tells her "you're the prettiest girl I ever met", but this is without emotion. He then goes to leave right away, he doesn't need to do anything else, he knows he has her. Then we're back in the hospital. Shots of Anna and Steven talking to other doctors, telling them that the tests need to be redone and intercut with shots of Bob being tested, including a pretty grisly shot of some fluid being drained out of a nasty looking bedsore or something. I love how the sounds of the machines are mixed with the creepy percussive score in this scene.
We then get another ghost shot following Steven pushing Bob down a corridor in a wheelchair. With a mixture of fatherly encouragement and frustration Steven picks Bob up and tries to make him walk, but his legs are useless so he just collapses in a heap. Steven tries this a couple of time, the drops getting more violent as his frustration increases. His anger at Martin is being aimed at Bob. He then tells him that if he's lying just to get out of school he will "shave your head and make you eat your hair". Which sounds ridiculous but in the moment you don't know whether to laugh or be shocked, because it's delivered as a serious threat, not a joke.
We then cut to Kim at choir practice, singing Carol of the Bells, a really intense Christmas carol that's full of tension, which builds to a crescendo before Kim collapses in the middle of the group, her legs giving out from under her. A huge crash of the piano mirroring her fall. We then cut to Anna who is obviously riddled with grief, the biggest show of emotion in the film so far, signifying how much of a toll events have had on her. We then cut to a close up of Kim in her hospital bed trying to eat a tiny slice of apple. She is clearly uncomfortable with this, struggling to chew, and our close proximity to her makes it all the more uncomfortable, we're able to feel her unease clearly through the screen.
We then cut to a ghost shot following Steven driving in his car. There is complete silence here, indicating his total focus on what he's doing now. We see him waiting outside Martin's house, mirroring Martin waiting outside his on his motorbike. Steven is trying to go on the offensive, but it will all prove futile, his attempts impotent. He marches up to the door, pounding it, demanding to be let in, but there's no answer. Steven can't find any answers anywhere. He screams at the house "open the door or I will smash it down and fuck you and your mother like you wanted", even though it's a threat, he's still offering to give Martin what he wants.
We then see Anna talking to Steven, she discovers that they have been meeting for six months, because he felt sorry for him. Anna then asks about his father, who died under Steven's scalpel. Steven insists he has no part in his death, telling her "a surgeon never kills a patient. An anesthesiologist can kill a patient, but not a surgeon", again keeping his hands clean. She asks if he was drinking that day, and he tells her no. We then cut to Steven standing in the shower, not washing himself, just letting the water wash over him. We then see him sat in a chair, naked, pathetic. He is totally vulnerable and has no idea what to do, so he does nothing.
In the hospital Anna is with Bob and Kim, who are sharing a room. Kim asks to be turned on her side, and Anna turns her away from herself and Bob, symbolic of how she's turned away from her family for Martin. Martin then calls Kim, we see him far below in the car park, looking up at her window. How long has he been there watching? While they are talking Kim is able to stand up and walk over to the window. Bob is jealous of this, and tries to get out of bed, but face-plants straight to the floor. When Martin hangs up the phone Kim loses feeling in her legs again. This convinces Anna that Martin is behind it all, takes away her phone and tells her not to talk to him anymore. Kim says, under her breath "fuck you", the first proper conflict between mother and daughter. She then goads her mother, saying "you won't be able to move either, but you'll get used to it", a line all about fate again. Things are gonna happen, just get used to it. We then see Anna in the lobby of the hospital, not moving, as if she's trying to imagine what it will be like.
Anna then visits Martin at his house. He is a slob here, dressed in a dirty t-shirt and boxer shorts, eating a big greasy plate of spaghetti, sauce all around his mouth. All throughout this scene he's playing with his food, the way he's playing with her and her family. He mentions how "all doctors have clean, nice, beautiful hands", referring to Steven not taking responsibility for his actions. There is also a great line about Martin's father, and how they both eat spaghetti the same way, but it turns out "everyone eats spaghetti the exact same way, exact same way, exact same way". No matter how special you think you are, you're just the same as everyone else, and there's nothing you can do about it. Fate. The repetition also reinforces the idea that no matter how many times you try to change things, you can't. We're then in the hospital, where we see a big important table with important looking people sat around it. We see this from the outside, so can't hear them, but from Steven's body language you can tell what they're saying. They've done all they can for Kim and Bob, there's nothing more they can do.
This dead end leads Anna to try to find out more about Martin's father. To this end we see her at a diner, not the same one that Steven met Martin in, to meet Matthew. He says "an anesthesiologist is never to blame..." reversing the sentiment Steven had earlier. He reveals, in return for a handjob, that Steven was drunk when he operated on Martin's father, and so is to blame for his death. The frantic yet detached look on Anna's face as she jerks him off really shows you how she's feeling about this revelation.
We're now back in the house, Kim and Bob sharing a room that looks like a hospital room, matching the already sterile nature of the house. In the kitchen Anna is watching Steven as he makes bland conversation, like everything is back to normal. He talks about going to the beach, and mashed potatoes. Anna coldly says to him "you have beautiful hands...nice and clean", in such a way that accuses him. While she's saying all of this the camera slowly pushes in on her, forcing Steven out of the frame, like he has no answer to her accusations. He becomes angry at her, and starts trashing the kitchen looking for teeth and pubic hair to make a magic potion, mocking Anna's insistence that there is some other force behind this because he is still unwilling to believe that these things are out of his control. He's a man of science, there must be a reasonable explanation to all of this. He ends his tirade by saying "we don't have any of the things we need", which is ironic in their perfect home.
In the bedroom Anna is lying in bed with her back to him. He is now docile and apologetic, his rage earlier all pointless and impotent, like when he went to Martin's house and threatened him. We then see him stood in his darkened house from the outside, a look of grim determination on his face. He has to do something now. He leaves the frame, and the light turns out, signifying the end of a chapter and the start of a new one.
There's a sharp sting of strings as Steven wakes Anna the next morning. He tells her to come to the basement. The basement is dark and bathed in a dark cold light. It doesn't look dirty, but it feels dirty in comparison to the rest of the house. Here we find Martin, beaten to a pulp and tied to a chair. Despite this he seems calm, almost relaxed. He's not gagged yet he doesn't shout for help. He knows he's still in control, despite what things look like, and we feel that too. He is still the dominant one in this relationship. He bites Steven, and then bites himself even harder, taking a chunk out of his arm, which he spits on the ground. "Do you understand? It's metaphorical" he says. An eye for an eye, and also, there is nothing that Steven can do to Martin that he wouldn't do to himself. Again, Steven is left impotent, he has no control, there is nothing he can do.
We then see Anna washing the blood from the boot of Steven's car, making her an accomplice. Some discordant strings start to play before they are broken by a gunshot. She rushes to the basement where Steven is threatening Martin with a gun, but Martin is still unfazed. He tells Steven "if you're gonna dig a hole in the yard you better make it a big one", and here's where Steven starts to believe him. He won't take the risk of losing his family, even if he never believed in curses before. There are some jarring piano chords that accompany this, mirroring his broken state of mind at this point.
Up in their room Kim and Bob are hanging out. Kim knows that her father didn't just kill Martin, saying "it would be like killing four people with a single shot. Wouldn't that be tragic?" The kids have accepted their fate. They know that one of them will die. Kim shows that she thinks she'll live by saying that she's going to live with Martin. She's also taken up smoking, he's having a strong influence on her. Bob shows that he thinks he's going to live by saying "they bought me a piano", implying that he'll live long enough to learn how to play it. Kim then bluntly asks "can I have your mp3 player when you're dead?" I really like that they're having a classic sibling rivalry game of one-upsmanship, but it's about who their dad is going to kill, it makes the situation even more horrific by bringing some humour into it.
We then get a really creepy shot of Bob crawling through the house on his stomach, dragging his useless legs behind him. There's an unsettling silence apart from the squeak of Bob's body against the wood floor. He finds some scissors and cuts off of his "beautiful" hair as a sacrifice to try and save himself. We then see Steven in the kitchen, his hands shaking as the weight of the situation constantly pushes him down. Bob crawls up to him to show him his haircut "dad, look" it's like he's making his case to not be killed, showing what a good son he is. He then says "I'm gonna water the plants now" and goes to crawl off again before Steven stops him. We then cut to Steven in the yard in the dark and the rain crying, his knees pulled up to his face. He has now realised that he has to kill one of his children, but has no idea how or why.
We then see Steven in his kids school, the camera ghosting behind him again. He is meeting with their headteacher, who mentions an essay Kim wrote on the Myth of Iphigenia by Euripides, the ancient Greek myth on which this film is based. Steven asks the teacher "do you especially like one of them more than the other", and we realise that he's here trying to find out which of his children is the "best", and which one to kill, which is incredibly dark, but this scene almost plays like a comedy. Steven is looking for answers anywhere he can, there weren't any at the hospital, so why not check the school? The scene ends with the teacher telling him "I don't know what to tell you" while the camera fixes on Steven's face as he finds another dead end.
Then we get a real creepy visual of Kim crawling down the stairs, really reminded me of The Exorcist. She is there with Anna, who is carrying Bob, and they look really tense and fearful, like they're going to confront a beast. Anna dresses his wounds almost reverentially, as if that would make all of this go away. In this same vein she then bows down and kisses his feet. Martin is unresponsive to this, it's all too late. He simply and coldly tells her "the boy's about to die". In their bedroom, Anna is trying to get with Steven, maybe feeling guilty for kissing Martin's feet. She tries to kiss his "clean" hands, no response. Like at the start of the film she strips and lays on the bed for him, he just turns out the light. They start talking and come to the conclusion that the only logical thing to do is kill one of their children, they're still young enough to have another. This is one of the most chilling scenes in the film for me, now that they've reached a point where they have no option but to face up to fate they become cold and logical, eschewing emotions for equations. Maybe that makes it easier to deal with.
We then see Kim, on her own, crawling down to Martin. She offers herself to him, wanting to run away with him, but he rebuffs her. He doesn't want her now he has her affections. Realising this, she tries to run away on her own, but as she doesn't have use of her legs, can only crawl slowly away. Steven and Anna go looking for her, Steven walking in front of the car through the almost pitch black streets like he's walking into the unknown. They find Kim on the sidewalk, her knees bloodied from crawling on concrete. At home, while tending to her wounds, Kim gives a creepy speech about how she should be the one to die, how her father bought her into this world and it's only right he take her out of this world. This might be a ploy to gain her father's sympathy after her running away plan failed, but it also may be her accepting fate too, even welcoming it.
Cut to Anna in the kitchen the next morning. The daylight looks washed out and weary, the whole picture is depressing, Anna's face is tired and she looks like she's given up. She reveals to Steven that she let Martin go. There was no point in keeping him prisoner, it wasn't going to change anything. She too has accepted fate. In the next scene Anna is with the children in their room. She is washing Bob's legs while Kim tries to apologise for her rudeness in the hospital. This doesn't get a response for Anna, so Kim asks her "do your legs hurt? does your back hurt? has it started yet?" which causes Anna to slap her. There is a great look of "fuck you" on Kim's face after this.
The next scene starts with a close up of Anna sleeping, which pulls out to reveal Steven stood over her watching. It's like he's looking for answers anywhere, maybe in his wife's sleeptalking even. We then get a close up of Bob, whose eyes become literally bloodshot, before they start bleeding properly. Kim sees this and calls out "Dad, quick. Bob's dying", but it's not a shout of worry, more like anticipation. The time has come. We then see Steven tenderly wiping the blood away from Bob's eyes, and the look on his face here is heartbreaking. It's almost like he's already saying goodbye. This whole scene is horrific, and I don't even have children. I can't imagine what a parent would feel watching this.
We then cut to Anna in the bedroom. Steven enters and says "come to the living room". Anna asks where the children are, and he replies "they're already there" with an air of finality. Anna, realising what's happening, says "I think I'm gonna wear that black dress you like", like she's attending a funeral. The scene ends with Steven leaving the warmth and light of the bedroom, to the darkness of the hallway, Steven has entered the dark place he needs to go to in order to do what he has to do. We then cut to the living room. Bob is bound and gagged sat on the sofa, blood streaming from his eyes. We also see Kim and Anna, both tied up like Bob. Steven enters and places bags over all of their heads. No one protests. They all know this has to happen and they have given themselves over to it. This is the only thing they can do. This is their fate.
The music rises to a maddening pitch as Steven pulls a woollen cap over his face and starts spinning in a circle with a loaded gun in the middle of the three. I love how the music breaks before he fires the first shot, so you're not ready for it and has a much greater impact. It's a miss. Steven didn't hit anyone. He pulls the cap back down over his eyes and does it again. During this there's one single sustained note representing our tension. He fires a second time. Another miss. The note gets higher and higher as he spins for a third time. He stops facing Bob for half a second, like he could see him, before he shoots, hitting Bob and killing him. Silence follows, almost a relief washes over the family as fate has been satisfied. Steven almost looks like he's glad it's all over. The scene ends with a slow zoom in on the dead bob, bag still on his head, blood slowly trickling from the wound in his chest. The sacred deer has been killed.
An unspecified amount of time later we see Steven Anna and Kim at the same diner where Steven used to meet Martin. Martin enters in slo-mo, all attention on him. He has no shame. He walks past the family, who all look away, as if they are the ones who are shameful. He sits at the counter, as we get a close up of Kim squirting ketchup on some fries, the same fries that are Martin's favourite. There is evil sounding choral music as the camera slowly zooms in on Martin, who is openly watching them. It's like they've come here to show him "look, we did it. We did what you wanted". They get up to leave without looking back, except for Kim. She looks back at Martin and almost smiles. He still has her. The film ends with Martin watching them leave. He isn't happy about what happened, it was just something that had to happen, and his face betrays no emotion about anything that just happened.
Well, there we go. I absolutely loved this film. Right from the opening shot of a real heart I was hooked. I get that it isn't to everyone's tastes, but to me, this is everything cinema is about. The film looks gorgeous, the direction adds to the story without being too flashy, the acting is fantastic, if very idiosyncratic, and the story had me on the edge of my seat and as tense as any film I can ever remember. This is an uncomfortable film about not very likeable people having horrible things happen to them. It's bleak, miserable, and utterly brilliant.
And that's why it's a 10/10 @Spinnaker1981