A perfect dichotomy of humor and tragedy, Lamb sneaks its way to the front of the line as a long-term festival favorite. Directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, the feature film had its premiere at the 74th Festival de Cannes on July 13, 2021. It was praised and rewarded for its inventiveness, earning it the Un Certain Regard Prize for Originality.
The film follows a childless couple, María (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), in Iceland that lives on a remote farm. One day after unusual circumstances, they discover a mysterious newborn. This serves as a second chance at being a family again. Unfortunately, miracles come at a cost.
Essentially, it explores the trials of family through love and loss. Some might compare it to Midsommar when it comes to holding a magnifying glass to grief. How it manifests itself in unconventional ways. The Icelandic atmospheric horror picture loses itself in suspenseful pacing. The film itself thrives in stillness. Jóhannsson allows the spectator to live in the moment. It is a lively folkloric tale that dances between light and dark. Despite it not being traditional horror, Lamb begs you to lean in close and pay attention. As well, it is surprisingly humorous. Many moments lend themselves to natural comedic relief that sets up a perfect balance.
Its small cast also plays into the simplicity of it all. With minimal to no dialogue at times, the beautiful landscapes captured by long camera shots speak volumes on their own. Jóhannsson’s work on this piece often embodies the quick wit and clever depth of an epic, enveloping its audience in cleverly divided stanzas. That is until it reaches its peak, a crescendo of unbelievable proportions. It is not surprising that the picture can often feel poetic considering that Jóhannsson collaborated with Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón for the screenplay.
Despite its familiarity, Lamb also often draws you into the unknown. Jóhannsson marvelously captures a vision of a mundane lifestyle that slowly succumbs to the supernatural. The film serves as an invitation into the day-to-day life of María and Ingvar. You might not understand them entirely, but you learn to empathize with them. In some ways, its take on a “remote setting where strange things take place” resembles the late 90’s American animated TV show Courage the Cowardly Dog if you removed the childish antics.
Lamb on the other hand is very real, and its stakes are very high even though it may not feel that way. There is no doubt as to why A24 acquired North American distribution for the picture. The film is vicious and ruthless while also being toned down and tame. It blends duality at an almost expert touch. Simply stated, it is a perfect addition to the family. – Josie Meléndez
The film stars Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson.
Lamb will be available in theaters in the U.S. on October 8, 2021.