Tag Archives: medicine

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Review

18 Nov

There are certain film makers working right now where it’s pretty much guaranteed that anything they release will be a completely original piece of work. One of these film makers is the one and only Yorgos Lanthimos. My first experience with Lanthimos was with his surreal family drama/coming of age story called Dogtooth. Just last year I had the pleasure of seeing his dystopian romance titled The Lobster, which made me laugh as much as it made me think. Continuing this string of totally oddball films is his latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which almost slipped under my radar. I watched a trailer for it the day before seeing it, but still didn’t really have a sense what it was about. I’m glad I went in that blind because what I saw was one of the most disorienting movies I’ve seen in a long time and I’m thrilled I didn’t miss it.

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a surgeon that has used his skills to help create a great life for himself. He’s celebrated in the community and has a really nice house with his wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), and his two kids, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). He’s also taken a teenage boy who is in his daughter’s class, Martin (Barry Keoghan), under his wing since he’s had a hard time coping after his father died during heart surgery. The odd part is that Steven was the surgeon and he’s may or may not be hiding something from Martin concerning that day. When Steven’s children begin to get mysteriously ill and just keep getting worse after many different doctors can’t diagnose what’s wrong with them, it becomes clear that Martin may have something to do with it, and his ultimatum to make it all stop will change the Murphys’ lives forever.

The first thing I absolutely need to touch on is how this movie is written and how it is performed. From the very first line of dialogue, I knew something was weird. Everyone spoke so literally and used such a dull, matter of fact way of delivering these lines. It was very hard to get used to because pretty much no one talks like that. It made for some very cold characters that felt like they were miles away from the reality we are all living in. There’s one scene where Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell both have a break down in their kitchen, and that was really the only time any true honesty or emotion was being conveyed. To many people, this will be a major deal breaker. This isn’t a straightforward narrative with straightforward characters. These characters almost feel programmed to say what should be said in a certain situation instead of saying what they feel. It’s almost sociopathic, but that’s just what this movie needs.

Not only is the acting very cold, but the cinematography seems almost non existent. This film is shot in hues of gray and blue with other, brighter colors coming in rarely. The locations are almost bare of any kinds of decorations, besides what is necessary for the characters to use to live, and this just mirrors their lack of any kind of moral or personal connection to the world they live in. They merely exist, and up until this point, existed free of consequences. The striking score of the film completely clashes with the bare cinematography and set design and succeeded wonderfully at sending shivers down my spine, even if the image was nothing all that off putting. The entire movie is made to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the camerawork is disorienting in the best possible way. It flows behind characters, often times going out of focus or losing them in the frame some other way. Zooms end with people on the far side of the screen instead of firmly in the center. It will also often times linger too long on somebody or something, just to add a new layer of creepy that otherwise may have slipped beneath the surface.

Finally, I can’t praise the originality of Yorgos Lanthimos and The Killing of a Sacred Deer enough. We have a film made by an artist that is totally unafraid of controversy and backlash. This movie doesn’t pull any punches and will leave you confused and wanting more. There are things that happen in the world of this movie that would surely be explained in any summer blockbuster, but Lanthimos isn’t interested in answering questions. He’s interested in telling a story that defies all logic, but demands you pay attention to the straightforward way he tells it. This isn’t an easy film and it can’t really be compared to any other film, other than maybe something else Lanthimos has done. He has a style all his own and I can’t wait to dive down this rabbit hole again.

I absolutely loved this movie. I loved this movie more than I thought I would and it’s been sneaking around in the back of my mind since I saw it. It’s hilarious, disturbing, awkward, cold, and ultimately original. When I see a piece of work done by a film maker who isn’t afraid to break any and all rules, I feel a sort of respect that’s rare. The Killing of a Sacred Deer isn’t for everyone, and it is admittedly hard to get into at first, but once you find its rhythm, I dare you not to remain hooked.

Final Grade: A

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Dallas Buyers Club – Review

20 Jan

I feel like everyone in the world would agree with me that the mere thought of AIDS is enough to make your heart race a little faster. It’s a terrifying disease with horrible bodily effects which is really just slowly hammering nails into your coffin. In Dallas Buyers Club, I had the opportunity to see a character face this head on and instead of backing down and accepting his own death, he opts to survive. I have seen other films with AIDS as a plot point, but none were as powerful and moving than Dallas Buyers Club.

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Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is an electrician and cowboy, who is known amongst his friends as being outwardly homophobic and intolerant. His life is spent drinking, indulging in cocaine, and have lots and lots of sex. This fun and easy life style is shattered when he gets blood work done revealing that he has AIDS. Woodroof is automatically outcasted by his friends and coworkers, with only a sympathetic transgender Rayon (Jared Leto) to give him any support. Rayon is also suffering from AIDS and an addiction to drugs, so he begins working with Woodroof to smuggle medicine and vitamins unapproved by the FDA from Mexico and other countries to open a buyers club for AIDS victims. The FDA and local hospitals get wind of this and do what they can to stop Woodroof and promote their own drug, AZT, which despite saving a lot of lives, can have devastating side effects.

This movie is heavy. Like, really heavy. By the time the credits began to roll, I had a hell of a lot to think about. First of all, Dallas Buyers Club is one of those movies that makes you reflect on your own life and how it is you’re living it. In the beginning of the movie, the doctors only give Woodroof 30 days to live. Just getting that laid on you out of the blue would, to me, be too much to handle. I had a lot of “What would I do?” thoughts while I was watching this movie. I feel like that’s the backbone of this movie. The performances are great and the story itself is moving, but the real weight of the movie comes from putting the real life situations of these characters, and relating them to your own life and a very scary possibility that everyone has to be very mindful of.

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The themes in this movie stretch across more than just the AIDS epidemic, and I was really surprised about that. I haven’t seen any trailers for Dallas Buyers Club, so I really had no idea what this movie was even about other than a story about AIDS. The whole plot of the FDA and hospitals making it next to impossible for the people who are slowly dying to get the medical treatment that they want is despicable. Now, some of this movie did take dramatic license, so I’m not sure how biased it was in real life. The story of Woodroof and Rayon is also really great. Woodroof’s character arc through the entirety of the movie is huge and we actually see different points in his life where he takes another step forward towards change. It’s a slow evolution that you see over the period of time that this movie takes. He’s a very well written character.

Even though a character is well written doesn’t necessarily mean that the character is going to be any good, and that’s where Matthew McConaughey comes in. It’s rare to see a career change so drastically in the course of a few years. McConaughey went from films like Sahara and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to films like Killer JoeMud, and now his best role yet in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey lost a total of 47 pounds for this movie and he handles the change of his character so fluidly and believably. He’s one of the best actors alive right now. Oh yeah… Jared Leto. Wow. I never really had much to say, and only really saw what he was capable of in Requiem for a Dream, but this role is unbelievable. He is unrecognizable as Rayon and you can see the commitment that he put into this character. It’s seriously unreal. Both actors deserve Oscars for their performances. This is going to be an interesting year for the awards.

All in all, Dallas Buyers Club is one of the best movies of the year. McConaughey and Leto show major acting chops here and further establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with. The directing and writing are just fine, but the real interesting scenes go to the actors. Thematically, this is a really heavy movie and may be upsetting to some people, but it is a very worthwhile movie that’s almost medicinal. It’ll help you think about your own life and how you view the lives of other. Now that’s some powerful stuff.