Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos ("Dogtooth," "The Lobster") continues to explore the dread and foreboding that comes from an isolated world in which the rules of society are external and immutable. In his most recent English-language feature, surgeon and recovering alcoholic Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is both the cause and the means of a family sacrifice that's meant to restore balance to the universe; the terms laid out to him by the unnervingly mature 16-year old Martin (Barry Keoghan).
The story follows an amped-up game of an eye-for-an-eye revenge, but all its participants remain disturbingly sedate. An early scene in which Steven's wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), also a doctor, pretends to be under general anesthetic while her husband makes love to her acts as baffling portent. All lines of dialog, while intensely personal — during their first meeting, Steven's kids have a lengthy discussion measuring Martin's sparse underarm hair against their dad's; hardly a fair comparison considering Farrell's hirsute state — are delivered in the same matter-of-fact tone one stranger would use to tell another her shoelace is untied.
Lanthimos drew inspiration from the legend of Agamemnon, whose sails were stilled by goddess Artemis after he poached a deer from her garden. To mention more of the original Greek tragedy would be to give away too much of the movie's plot but don't expect any actual deer. Unlike "The Lobster," in which the random appearance of animals provided some absurdist humor, the titular mammal is merely a metaphor. In this, one of the best films of the year, Lanthimos is strictly interested in the human, pushed to the extremes of discomfort in order to restore the universe's dispassonate balance.