I'd been greatly regretting having missed this film through circum-stances on its original screen distribution six weeks ago. But then a Heaven-sent, belated, additional opportunity came my way and I seized it.
It's one of those profoundly disturbing films where I wished I'd seen it in the comfort of company and been able to discuss it afterwards. (The film's title becomes clear as it progresses - no animals are involved, only peripheral glimpses of a family dog, unharmed.)
Director Yorgos Lanthimos was responsible for last year's compelling 'The Lobster' (also starring Colin Farrell) and he's here pulled off another haunting feature, though much, much darker.
Filmed in Cincinatti, Farrell is a hospital surgeon, leading invasive operations, the film commencing with close view of two minutes of open-heart surgery (forewarned, I could avert my eyes for the duration) with a seemingly idyllic family life - wife (Nicole Kidman) plus teenage daughter and younger son. (We saw Farrell and Kidman together as recently as in this year's 'The Beguiled').
The surgeon has struck up a cordial but matter-of-fact relationship with a teenage boy (Barry Keoghan - creepily convincing), the son of a man he'd operated on previously (the subject of the open-heart surgery at the start). At first we wonder who this boy actually is and what is he doing being so friendly with Farrell - and why, indeed, is the latter letting him get so close at all. Slowly as things reveal it becomes creepier and things start to impinge on the surgeon's life and, crucially, on his family. It would be a spoiler to give any more away but, boy oh boy, it does venture into very dark territory! I was drawn in almost against my will but felt forced to keep watching, dreading the next turn, which only realised my worst fears. The tension is screwed up extremely tightly, it being clear that I wasn't the only audience member who was transfixed.
I must admit to some relief when it was over. Being put through an emotional wringer can leave ones nerves in shreds as well as being thoroughly satisfying.
Farrell is excellent - this film confirms yet again that he can play vulnerable and fragile as effectively as hard-man or criminal. Kidman is also as good as she always is, though I felt that her role here was slightly underwritten, particulatly as compared with Farrell's.
Lanthimos' directing (he's also the co-writer) is exemplary throughout, could hardly be bettered, in fact. Time and again I was reminded of Kubrick (as well as some Hitchcock) in the roving camera work, up and down lengthy hospital corridors, with occasional long-shots, sometimes in silence.
A film that well paid off my yearning to catch it. Not a film for the faint-hearted or for those of a nervous disposition, but there's no doubt it's a film of disturbing (and grisly) 'significance'............8.
25 minutes ago