What is Lamb?
Lamb is a 2021 Icelandic film from A24 (the studio behind, among many others, Hereditary, Minari, Lady Bird, Eighth Grade, and Ex Machina). It is directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson and stars Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason. It is in Icelandic. It was released in October and is currently on premium video on demand.
What is Lamb about?
Lamb is about two farmers who discover a baby that is half-sheep, half-human. The couple begins to raise the creature as their own child, but strange occurrences threaten to tear the new family apart.
What genre is Lamb?
The film is a slow-paced drama with some horror elements. I’m a real wimp when it comes to horror movies, but I could handle Lamb, as it isn’t full of jump scares or gore. There are a few disturbing images, but the real horror comes from the tense atmosphere and disquieting premise. It’s quietly terrifying, leaving the bulk of the story’s implications up to the imagination. The anticipation of what could happen next is the scariest part.
Does the movie have a good payoff?
I believe so. Now, this is a fable– this isn’t the kind of film to try to logically break down with “well how exactly did the sheep-baby come to be?” or “why don’t they act more surprised at discovering the sheep-baby?” It’s a metaphor and examination of grief. It’s fantasy-realism, so just go with it. I think the reveals in the film are 1) brilliantly understated so they’re even scarier, and 2) just enough to tease you into imagining something worse, and 3) never going the direction you imagine they’ll go, which makes them both satisfying and frustrating (in the best way).
How’s the acting?
Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason are absolutely mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. With barely any words you believe their characters have had a long history together and you understand their bond. Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, who comes in in the middle of the film to shake things up as an unwanted visitor and audience surrogate character, is also excellent, bringing an unsettling dynamic to the film.
Will this make me want to be a farmer?
After seeing all the gorgeous landscapes, yes. After seeing the evil sheep? No.
Yeah, you heard me.
Will this movie make me feel weird about sheep?
Probably. If possible, I recommend restraining from interacting with sheep until at least 30 days after seeing this film. By then you should be okay.
The real thing I’m scared of is subtitles. Will I like Lamb?
There’s not much dialogue, so there’s not much subtitle-reading required! However, if you need something fast-paced or talkative, you might struggle with Lamb. I saw this in theatres and was engrossed, but I know that if I had been watching it at home, I would have probably picked up my phone multiple times. I think Lamb is a rewarding watch, but it will definitely take more discipline and effort than most other movies require.
Should I watch this with my kids or relatives?
No. Kids definitely would not enjoy it and would probably be scared by it, and it’s rated R for a sex scene with some female nudity, along with brief violence.
Are there any valid critiques of Lamb?
Some have said the film is not substantive, just atmospheric, without any actual deeper messages. I disagree; I think the grief the characters experience is conveyed through the melancholy atmosphere and the ambiguity allows you to work through your own interpretations. It’s not a movie that is going to tell you anything; it invites you into an emotional experience. But I can understand the frustration some will have with that style.
So…should I see Lamb?
If you want to see one of the wildest, most original films of the year, be deeply unsettled but oddly touched, and meditate on nature and grief, then yes.
– Madeleine D.