Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Noomi Rapace as María
Hilmir Snær Guðnason as Ingvar
Björn Hlynur Haraldsson as Pétur
Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson as Man on Television
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
In rural Iceland, a childless couple discover a strange and unnatural newborn in their sheep barn. They decide to raise her as their own, but sinister forces are determined to return the creature to the wilderness that birthed her.
I had been hearing about Lamb for a while, it was the new upcoming A24 horror film, this time focusing on a half human and half lamb baby. I didn’t look at the trailer beforehand, but I knew the central concept and went in just knowing that. Having watched it, I can say that at the very least it’s an interesting mix of ideas and elements even if it doesn’t do much with them.
I’ll say right now that it’s probably best to go into Lamb not knowing much beforehand outside of the central concept. I also recommend not watching the trailer, it reveals about half the movie and misleads about the type of movie it’s going to be. It is also worth noting that while it has some horror elements, it is less of a horror movie and more of a foreboding and unsettling folktale. Much of the movie is focusing on the main couple raising this lamb-baby. It’s certainly a slow movie as it very steadily builds over time. I am fine with slow storytelling, and it does serve to build up the eerie atmosphere of the film. However, there is a bit of an over reliance on it. The most notable part of the film is the concept, and you certainly get that here. Surprisingly there are some fun family scenes with the half human and half sheep Ada, and I enjoyed those scenes. It also got much more interesting whenever it got odder. The film is so committed to being serious despite its absurdity, and I can’t tell whether its deliberate or not. Despite the cool premise, it really is squandered. It doesn’t go far beyond its initial intriguing idea. In fact, in a way it feels like a short concept film extended to feature length. Not much actually happens in this movie and it doesn’t build up to much. A weird inclusion of the movie were title cards letting the audience know of the different chapters, but this structure was ultimately pointless and doesn’t really add to much. There are some themes at play, including parenthood, loos, nature vs nurture, etc. Despite the amount of topics and themes around the film and concept however, there really wasn’t much to interpret in this allegorical film.
There are some subdued yet solid performances from the cast, including Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason. The cast are small, but they do their parts well, especially Rapace.
Valdimar Jóhannsson is the director and his work on the film is great, definitely the strongest part of the film. He does very well at building up this dark and cold atmosphere over time, helped by the ambient sounds and mostly absent music. The cinematography is amazing and takes advantage of its location with the fog and the mountains in the background. The score is minimalistic but effective when it’s there.
I admire Lamb more than I liked it. It certainly has a lot going for it, it’s great on a technical level with gorgeous cinematography, the performances are good, it has quite a strong atmosphere, and I appreciate its very weird premise. However the main issue for me is that it doesn’t really amount to much by the end, feeling more like a concept film than a fully realised idea. If the premise sounds intriguing to you and if you like some of A24’s horror movies (even if Lamb isn’t exactly horror), then I think it’s worth checking out.