A childless couple taking possession of someone else’s baby and a birth mother not willing to part with her offspring. So far the plot of Lamb does not sound too unconventional. Until one takes into account the fact that the baby and mother in question are sheep.
Viewers are introduced to María and Ingvar’s daily life on their farm: they take care of the land, feed the animals, assist with the lambing. Their unforeseen decision to take one of these lambs and raise her as their own seems like a curious case of folie à deux at first. They wrap her in blankets, put up a crib in their bedroom and try their best to ignore the wistful bleating of the robbed mother. As the reason behind the adoption is eventually learned, more questions are raised than answered: some of the newborn’s body parts are human.
In his debut feature, writer-director Valdimar Jóhannsson manages to create a multidimensional film that is both a family drama and an ominous fairytale. The story, set against the impressive backdrop of rural Iceland, is reminiscent of long-lost folklore. Despite instances of lightness and the occasional chuckle from the audience, the situation is not played for laughs. Rather, the earnest portrayal of such an outlandish concept invokes a humorous reception as a welcome byproduct.
Noomi Rapace, known for her absolute dedication to every role, carries the picture with her understated emotionality. If she hadn’t had first-hand experience with farm life, she undoubtedly would have sunk her teeth into it in order to prepare for this performance. It should not go unmentioned that the supporting cast of sheep also add a striking emotive layer; the expressive eyes in the opening sequence set the tone for the events about to unfold.
Lamb is a hidden gem and, upon cinematic release, will easily capture the hearts of independent film lovers.
Lamb is released in select cinemas on 10th December 2021.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Lamb here: