From start to finish, this film had me on the edge of my seat with constant long sighs with intermittent bouts of holding my breath. Writer/Director, Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), was able to artfully build tension, blare an at times cacophonous and ever so eerie score, and deliver a dialed back cast with limited emotion, flat affects, that maintain the wryest cadence that would impress even Wes Anderson. There are plenty of dark and uncomfortable moments, which were enough to illicit uncomfortable laughter from the audience.
It’s unclear at the beginning of the film why heart surgeon, Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell from True Detective/The Lobster) has a very odd relationship with a teenager Martin (Barry Keoghan from Dunkirk). After their encounters increase and Martin meets the rest of the family, Anna (Nicole Kidman who needs no introduction) and her two children, the audience starts to realize that besides the obvious strangeness about Martin, and subsequently all of the characters, he is not as harmless as he appears. Steven’s two children eventually become afflicted where require hospitalization. This turning point is where things become even more bizarre because there sickness is somehow controlled by Martin. Steven and Anna are both doctors and can only use logic and science to try to figure out what is making their two children sick.When that doesn’t work, we see them unravel and the carefully constructed walls they have built cannot hold up.
I left the theater in a tizzy because it’s rare that I get rattled. I blame the brilliance of Martin’s character and how he initially comes across as a conflicted teenager and then becomes menacingly cruel while the other characters are still somehow almost beguiled by him even though he intends to do direct harm to the family.. It’s one of the best portrayals I’ve seen in quite some time of an underestimated antagonist. His motive is simple and his commitment is full, but it doesn’t seem like he would be able to pull it off.
With all of the sterilization that comes with the film, there are a couple of very real moments where Steven and Anna separately breakdown with the weight of dealing with their sick children. It’s raw emotion we see, not something contrived, you feel their pain. That’s the beauty of Yorgos Lanthimos, what isn’t directly inferred, you’re going to see how bad it can get through his lens. Camerawork is quite impressive and all of the acting is top notch. Check this one out when it hits the theater.