Noomi Rapace continues to showcase her acting-chops in what many will look back on as one of the strangest yet unparalleled experiences in Lamb.
Lamb made several headlines in 2021 for its original yet seemingly out-of-the-ordinary premise. Led by Valdimar Jóhannsson’s direction and writing, while starring Noomi Rapace as María, Hilmir Snær Guðnason as Ingvar, and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson as Pétur, it’s easy to say Lamb isn’t meant for everyone.
The plot follows childless couple, María and Ingvar, who discover a mysterious newborn lamb-human hybrid on their farm in Iceland. Though the unexpected notion of family life brings the couple happiness, it comes crashing down in a typical Icelandic horror fashion.
The plot of Lamb alone should confuse audiences with what it has to offer. The description can make it appear as a spoof film like Sharknado (2013) or Ice Spiders (2007), but instead is a beautifully told story about grief, acceptance, and the unknown.
Lamb forces the audience to feel emotionally connected to this lamb-human hybrid as though it’s their own child. Aside from an opening shot with an unforgettable score and abstract imagery, there isn’t much dialogue early in the film, bestowing the couple’s quiet and hard-working lifestyle as they tend to their farm. It keeps you guessing when the “weird stuff” will happen, but when it finally does, it’s worth the wait.
The Appeal of a Slow-Burn
Even if someone loves Lamb, they tend to understand that it’s not meant for everyone. It’s a slow and prolonged burn, and though its absurd premise will intrigue many to view it, it takes time to get off its feet. It’s not a blood-thirsty slasher with a bunch of evil lambs, and it’s not a dialogue-heavy comedic couple story who happen to find a weird creature.
María and Ingvar feel like a real couple with all of their faults on display. Maria has some attraction and previous unfaithfulness with Ingvar’s brother Pétur, while the couple continues to grief over the death of their daughter Ada which isn’t entirely explained to the audience. It gives us some relatability to who these characters are and why we might act similarly if we discovered a human-lamb hybrid.
Subtle Yet Masterful Performances
Lamb works because it’s predicated on the performances of three actors. Maria and Ingvar are in-love but have made mistakes and are flawed human beings. Pétur is what many would describe as a freeloader who introduces the initial conflict against Ada (the lamb-human hybrid).
❝ Lamb does a fantastic job at presenting an unpredictable story❞
Thankfully, the film doesn’t go down the apparent rabbit hole of having a family member be against their decision—this route would be too cliché and novice writing-wise. Instead, the conflict comes down to Pétur trying to seduce Maria, Maria’s issues with the lamb that birthed Ada, and the unknown.
Not Knowing Where the Film Goes
Lamb does a fantastic job at presenting an unpredictable story. Even with the knowledge of Ada from the trailers, you don’t expect the couple to have had a daughter who died in the past, an affair between the wife and her brother-in-law, and the bombastically grim and dismal conclusion.
The open-ended finale may confuse and anger many hoping for a finite answer as to what they just watched, but Lamb isn’t meant to be noticeable. A subtle shot of a grave gave a complete reason why the couple embraced Ada so much, while the tragic ending left us wanting more.
Lamb is a very polarizing film. If you have the patience to hear lambs constantly yelp and view a character study on a couple and brother who come across a strange yet beautiful creature, you will find a film that has more to offer than just its absurd plot. It’s gorgeously shot, has a particularly haunting score, and will be looked back on as one of the most compellingly unique films of the 2020s.