The Reel Review
A couple of profoundly lonely sheep farmers grieving the death of their child in a remote, windswept stretch of Iceland find unexpected joy following the birth of a mysterious, unnatural looking lamb, in this folk horror/fantasy starring Noomi Rapace (Prometheus).
Knowing as little as possible about Lamb‘s premise and story is the best way to fully appreciate this strange, surreal feature film debut from director Valdimar Jóhannsson. Working from a script that he co-wrote with acclaimed Icelandic author Sjón (The Northman, Dancer in the Dark), Lamb explores such themes as loneliness, grief and the human need for connection. In time, the creature is revealed. The suspenseful introduction of a third character in the second act adds an element of drama, threatening the couple’s fragile and delusional sense of joy.
Committed, all-in performances from Rapace and Hilmir Snær Gudnason really sell what otherwise could have been a laughably preposterous story. Excellent cinematography and eerie visuals capture the couple’s initial physical and emotional isolation, with well-done practical effects giving human qualities to animals on their farm. The story is a slow burn, however, at least up until its dramatic, twisty, symbolism-laden finalé.
• Lamb made the 15-film shortlist as Iceland’s 2022 Best International Film Oscar entry and is the highest grossing Icelandic film ever to appear in U.S. theaters, earning $3.2 million at the box office.
• Lamb is the first film in which Noomi Rapace speaks Icelandic, which she learned as a child living on a farm just minutes from the huge Gullfoss waterfall in southern Iceland. She also speaks Danish, English and Norwegian, in addition to her native Swedish.
• Lamb won’s Iceland’s prestigious Edda Award in 2022 for Best Cinematography.