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Life Through the Lens: Double the feature, double the fun

“All this anger, man, it just begets greater anger.”

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Double-trouble = when you get punished at school and know your dad is waiting at home to punish you again.

Double-standard = it is cute when my kid does it but yours … that is just obnoxious.

Double-dragon = Nintendo’s answer in the 80s to: so you have a twin brother and you both like to punch stuff with your expert martial arts skills but only while looking left and right.

Double-meaning = A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.

Double-feature = God’s gift to cinephiles!

This past weekend, I was gifted a double-feature in Athens. I saw “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It is a small-slice-of-heaven: to thoroughly enjoy a movie then go right into another movie! Experiencing a “double-dragon” would have been fun … but my twin brother had to work late. Figures.

Sacred Deer begins with a strange relationship: surgeon and teenager. A successful family man and a young stranger. The relationship slowly unfolds – the boy is invited into the surgeon’s home and vice-versa. It seems upfront and harmless…doesn’t it always!

The surgeon (Colin Farrell) seems to show a fatherly concern for this boy (Barry Keoghan). It is later revealed that the boy’s father was a patient of the surgeon’s but didn’t live through the operation. That explains the obligation and responsibility he feels. The boy seems to need the attention he is receiving, as well. An emotional mess, the boy is struggling to readjust to life after his father.

The plot continues – the boy’s motives are not pure and familial. A dead father may require more than some time and gifts. A higher price. I’ll stop there because the reveal is tremendous.

This film will knock your socks off, and, if you aren’t wearing socks, it will put socks on you just so it can knock them off. It has a thing for socks. Long after the film concluded, the feeling stuck with me. It is beautifully dark and uncompromisingly twisted. The characters are well-constructed and interesting – the plot is balanced – the tension was physically exhausting but perfectly paced. It is a movie unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Colin Farrell delivers his lines with precision and ease – he is perfectly suited for this type of movie. Nicole Kidman adds much depth and emotion as his wife. Barry Keoghan is creepy-beyond-explanation in his role as Martin (the boy) – he will not soon leave your mind. Director/writer Lanthimos is a wonderful story-teller, expertly leading the audience to places never traveled. His dialogue is dry yet profound – his detail captured brings incredible weight to each frame.

NEXT: Three Billboards begins with a grieving mother – her daughter recently raped, murdered, and burned. Although a few months have passed, no arrests have been made. In her extreme-anguish, she rents three billboards and posts an accusation: “Raped While Dying – And Still No Arrests? – How Come, Chief Willoughby?” The posted indictment on the police force does not go over well; she is bombarded with negativity and out-right-threats. Sure, the town is sympathetic toward her recent loss … but they also love their police chief. To most, the billboards were out of line.

Mildred (Frances McDormand), the mother, is looking for answers – she is looking for retribution. If her daughter is gone, someone should have to pay. Her anger demands to be satisfied. The police chief (Woody Harrelson) claims to be doing all he can, but it isn’t enough. Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), the town’s hot-headed officer, makes it a personal mission to get his chief cleared and the billboards taken down.

Through persecution and threats, Mildred knows the billboards must remain standing. Her daughter must not be forgotten.

This was the film I had been looking forward to more than any other this season. The director is fresh and witty – Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand are two of my favorites. As a whole, the movie worked well. The performances are memorable and true. McDormand plays the heartbroken-mother with incredible depth and sincerity. Rockwell is a scene-stealer; his comedic timing is impeccable, and his range is equally impressive.

Where the film lost me a little was its dialogue. McDonagh has proven his flair for discourse throughout his career – this is why I was slightly disappointed. Some of his jokes were careless, and some of his interactions were forced. It wasn’t all for naught, though – McDonagh had some truly remarkable moments and candidly hilarious jokes.

The two films shared a similar idea: what becomes of anger? Sacred Deer searched the ends of anger: each action causes a reaction. Three Billboards examines the ramifications of letting anger end with you. This awareness is critical and always timely: what becomes of anger?

If someone does you wrong, your instinctual response is to reciprocate the wrong-doing. It seems only fair. There is an inherent problem with that – where does it end? For each ill enacted, another ill is born. For each hatred carried out, another hatred is conceived. It cannot continue in this fashion. At some point, the hating must stop. The evil must be snuffed out. The ill must be cured.

I am ever-reminded of this idea: anger begets anger. Every war, every invasion, every grudge, every slur, every violation, every insult – all of these things bring more of the same. Someone must be the one to let it go! Instead of anger, start a different “begetting.” Beget some forgiveness. Beget some peace. Beget some love. Pass on something other than what you received.

I’m be-getting out of here.

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Report Card

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Grade: A

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Report Card

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Grade: B+

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