A childless couple, María and Ingvar discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, before ultimately destroying them.
If you didn’t notice any of the marketing before you walked into Lamb, you would still know immediately from the opening that something is awry. First-time director Valdimar Johannsson is able to capture imagery that is not only mysterious, but eerie enough to stretch your imagination to an unwanted place. Residing in Iceland, this film centers around a couple, Maria (Noomi Repace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), as they deal with life after losing a child in their rural countryside home, trying to find happiness in whatever form it may come.
Johannsson knows how to create a beautiful scene hands down. Throughout this film, there are countless shots of the landscape that just motivates you to travel to lands you’ve never seen before. Living in this sort of environment has never appealed to me, but now I’m inspired to see what lies beyond the horizon. This is a testament to how outstanding the cinematography was during this runtime as you’re soaking it all in.
The language is in Icelandic for the whole duration so there are subtitles, but there’s no issue there. With only three cast members there isn’t much dialogue; just great performances by the talent, expressing all of their feelings and emotions through facial expressions and body language. Just seeing them work their sheep farm each day is nearly enough to witness what they experience as we get to know their personalities.
Now if you did pay attention to the marketing your face probably turned upside down a few times trying to figure out what is going on within the plot. A child is delivered to the couple in the most shocking way, and saying it’s difficult to comprehend this new journey they’re about to encounter would be the understatement of the century. It is implied that there may be some bestiality at play, and if that’s true or not will not be spoiled here, but it’s all uncanny, to say the least.
At this point in the film is where the true horror comes out on display. Not in a horrific sense from a typical scary movie, but just the thought that this particular lifestyle could be accepted. However, the world that this is taking place in is remote. There is no one to judge, and even if there were, the couple on display here aren’t harming a soul. So who’s to say what they’re doing is wrong? It really does question morality, normality, and someone’s psychosis, and in some way that’s appreciated in this film that provides a narrative that is by far on average never explored. So for that factor alone, this film is entertaining.
However, it’s also an uncomfortable watch. Stretching your imagination to disbelief may be asking a little too much from the audience member. While there is so much love passed around in this film, many will find it disgusting that someone is nurturing a hybrid lamb human child. Yes, you read that correctly. A half lamb, half human child. Thankfully nothing like this is possible in real life, so that does calm your nerves as you attempt to stomach what’s onscreen trying to make sense of it all.
There are so many questions that arise from this. Now on a technical side, Lamb is fantastic. Johannsson is able to accomplish many things here showing that he can be a competent director at the very least and produce quality content if he’s provided the correct material. And hats off to him for capturing the lengths a couple will go through to find happiness and love in the more dire of situations. The ending however doesn’t provide any justice at all. Questions that you are dying to get answered are not, and you’re just left confused wondering what in the world did you just watch. More and more questions arise and that’s not how a film should end. This caused the film to suffer. It’s all about the payoff, and it didn’t this time around for me. Of course, it all just depends on what your cup of tea is because some may find this as a masterpiece, while others consider it a jumbled mess. With me and my subjective taste, I fall somewhere in the middle. Go in with caution.