Starring: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Running Time: 106 mins
Lamb (Dýrið) is an Icelandic film about a husband and wife working on an isolated sheep farm who see the birth of a curious human-sheep hybrid, which they take into their home and treat as their own.
I’m not sure about this one. Lamb is a plainly weird film that blurs the lines between psychological drama and flat-out fantasy and horror, complete with committed performances from Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason, and utterly gorgeous cinematography from start to finish. All of that makes Lamb sound like an intoxicating watch, but unfortunately, it isn’t.
Perhaps I’m overly sanitised to the weird, uneasy world of A24, and combined with classically deadpan Icelandic drama, there are few films out there which are more straight-faced despite their bizarreness. However, as weird as Lamb is, the film doesn’t have a mind-bending, flat-out disturbing intensity, which ultimately contributes to its drama feeling really rather diluted.
On the whole, the film is a captivating watch. It may not be ludicrously strange as I might have wanted, but the pervading atmosphere of seeming normality while you watch two people raise a human-sheep hybrid thing as their own daughter does get you on edge from fairly early on.
In the lead roles, Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason both look emotionally drained from the very start, a state that at first seems to be driven by the drizzly, grim climate they work in, but ultimately shows itself to be the effect of something far deeper.
Combined with the unease of the film’s frankly insane premise, Lamb had a real chance to take the emotionally devastated mindset of its two main characters and turn this unsettling, bizarre tale into a heart-wrenching drama. Sure, it’s Iceland, and high drama is never the order of the day, but Lamb strikes me as a film that squanders the opportunities it gives itself throughout, rarely following through on the captivating dramatic themes it sets up.
And with that, Lamb plods along in an intriguingly strange manner, but never a genuinely enthralling way. The visuals and cinematography of the both depressing and spectacular natural landscape make the film an eye-catching watch, but don’t go far enough to turning the farm on which the story takes place into anything more than a simple setting.
Lamb feels much closer to Icelandic farming tales like Rams, and despite the promise that its stranger tendencies seem to provide, the film fails to live up to the country’s most enthralling farming dramas like The County. As such, while it’s certainly memorable for its story, Lamb doesn’t quite hit the high notes that it certainly could, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2 overall.