Lamb Movie Review
When the publicist who gave me access to watch the new A24 movie Lamb asked me what I thought of the film, my immediate response was, “Hated it.” Upon further reflection, that’s not entirely true, but this superbly marketed, odd thriller-drama (comedy?) about two parents who raise a half-lamb, half-human hybrid in the desolate lands of remote Iceland, is a primary example of style over substance, of misplaced hubris, and unfulfilled potential.
So, I didn’t hate it. But I kind of hated it.
There is, admittedly, something alluring about Valdimar Jóhannsson’s film. After all, it’s about an adorable lamb-human child, angry sheep, and, as one character puts it, “What the fuck?” Set against a bleak but beautiful landscape, Jóhannsson does a fine job of depicting man versus nature, of the outweighed vastness of the Earth against our tiny, pitiful protagonists, and of their extreme isolation, both physically and mentally.
The movie is also a maddeningly consistent experiment in suppressed emotion. Lamb alludes to a previous loss between the couple, played by the excellent Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason, which has slowly and quietly ripped the love away from them; they operate on shifts, tending to their farm, rarely interacting in a way you’d expect a normal couple to function.
That’s all well and good, but Lamb feeds off their energy, or lack thereof, in the worst kind of ways. It’s like being stuck on a long car ride with another couple that clearly hates each other but won’t admit to themselves; it’s an energy succubus.
Lamb could have pulled it off if the payoff delivered, but it doesn’t. If Jóhannsson and co-writer Sjón had something powerful to say, and a powerful way to say it, it doesn’t come across on screen. The movie feels like half a thought, the lead up to something much more intense, menacing, and dark than what you ultimately get aside for a fleeting moment.
The lamb-child was cute and made me chuckle more than once. Rapace is terrific. And the movie holds your attention, if only in search of an answer to the what-the-fuck question. But Lamb is so low energy, so devoid of answers or a fulfilling finish, that even though I didn’t hate it, I kind of, sort of, did.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.