Lamb is unexpected in the best possible way. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, uncomfortable but not in a queasy way while also being weirdly sweet.
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Summary: A childless couple in rural Iceland make an alarming discovery one day in their sheep barn. They soon face the consequences of defying the will of nature in this dark and atmospheric folktale, the striking debut feature from director Valdimar Jóhannsson.
When someone goes into a Disney movie, they know what they are getting into. A Disney movie is something that triggers certain expectations in people's minds, and it has been that way for decades. The word "Disney" is versatile and can be used in a bunch of different ways. "This movie was very Disney" is a statement that makes sense. The same could be said for A24 these days. This writer has personally written a headline that a trailer was "very A24-y," and those that know the studio and the kind of movies they make know precisely what you're talking about. So when we say that Lamb is the most A24 movie to ever A24, it creates a particular vision. This is not a movie for everyone, and it is certainly not a movie that those who love A24 should use to try and convert people into liking what the studio produces. It's incredibly slow-moving, it's atmospheric, it's sometimes cringe-inducing, it's weirdly sweet, it's occasionally horrifying, it's beautifully shot, it's wonderfully acted. Even more so than anything, it's a tough movie to describe without revealing everything that happens.
Lamb is one of those movies where you can feel the inspiration drawn from folklore, and it's incredibly apparent that we're not exactly dealing with a story that is supposed to make sense in a linear fashion. This is overarching and trying to tell us something beyond the fact that there is a hybrid lamb baby. There are those that would call this horror, and maybe there is a little bit of that, but A24 movies are rarely horror in the traditional sense. This is horror that will leave you slightly uneasy but won't make you scream. The opening scene is there to set the tone, and that uneasiness is there throughout the entire runtime. Everything is weird, everything is surreal, and you're just along for the ride. You'll either be very on board, or you won't.
First-time director Valdimar Jóhannsson does a rather masterful job of portraying what it would be like living in rural Iceland. The scenes are beautiful, breathtaking even, but there is a sinister undercurrent that whatever happens here, there is no one nearby to help. That's why the cast is all of three people and the lamb of the title. Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason do a masterful job of portraying a couple that isn't entirely living but surviving. They go through the motions until the lamb appears and seems to shake them both lose. They wake up again, and those brief moments of happiness are tinted so strangely by the fact that it is a lamb hybrid child and the fact that Maria and Ingvar are too invested in this happiness to even acknowledge how weird everything is. This lamb woke them up both again, and for that alone, they are willing to look the other way. They are going to fight back and ignore every warning sign and every red flag because that happiness and the sense of finally being awake and alive is practically blinding them.
Lamb, much like a lot of movies that A24 makes, is one that is going to stay with you, and it's also going to be a movie you either love or you hate. There aren't going to be a lot of middle-of-the-road opinions on this one. It's working on a very specific wavelength, and it's not going to deviate from that wavelength for anything. While far from traditional horror, the parts of Lamb that really stay with you are the ones when it seems like everything is going to be okay when you know that it isn't. Something terrible is going to happen to these people, you're just waiting for it, and that waiting is beautiful.