Yorgos Lanthimos directs this follow-up to his 2015 film The Lobster. It follows a couple, doctors Anna and Steven (Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell), whose children fall ill in unexplained circumstances. As they strive to find a cure, their attention turns to 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan) who has recently befriended Steven, who operated on his father some years before.
Much like The Lobster, it’s hard to capture the essence of this film in a few words, and equally difficult to classify. Part psychological thriller, part über-dark comedy, part genre-busting horror, the film’s defining characteristic is probably its sparse, tense atmosphere. This is aided by the minimalist score which is little more than a series of jarring noises.
It’s a refinement of The Lobster‘s unique yet flawed style, offering the same blunt exchanges between characters and deliberately stilted dialogue, serving as a stark contrast to the film’s more emotional scenes. It’s this approach which allows the film to avoid melodrama and retain its integrity. Like The Lobster it also has a propensity to general weirdness which gives it a totally unique feel.
Kidman and Farrell play their roles exceptionally well, as do the film’s younger performers: Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic. Skillfully photographed against an eerily synthetic-looking cityscape, the right angles and bright light create a whole world that feels like an operating theatre.
This, and the cold rationality of the characters, represent the detachment of a surgeon from their patient, emphasised by the anonymous open heart surgery of the film’s opening. And it’s ultimately this detachment which provides the biggest clue to the film’s meaning.
Lanthimos gives us another chance to see the world from his unique viewpoint. It’s often distressing and bleak, but with enough peculiarities and macabre wit to ensure this is not just an exercise in endurance.