Review by Sean Boelman
The A24 brand has become associated with a certain type of film — artful, yet straightforward with its symbolism, and defined by a characteristic indie quirkiness. More often than not, the results are successful, but there are misfires like Lamb which take the formula and add little to it, making it a frustratingly one-note experience.
The movie follows a childless couple living an isolated life on their farm in Iceland when an unusual newborn enters their life, bringing them happiness before later threatening to rip it away. It’s an undeniably intriguing concept, and the film should be praised for finding that balance between approaching it with a straight face and not taking itself overly seriously, but in the end, it does very little with it.
As one can expect, this is a slow burn psychodrama, and the pacing can be a bit taxing at times. There is definitely some humor to be found in watching these people rear this unusual child, but its novelty wears thin at a certain point and there’s just not enough tension to give it momentum. The payoff is oddly satisfying, but the journey to get there is very uneven.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that it doesn’t have much subtlety with its themes. This is obviously a film about parenthood, and while there thankfully isn’t a whole lot of exposition (in fact, the movie doesn’t have much dialogue in the first place), the script doesn’t leave much room for interpretation.
That said, the writers did a pretty solid job with the character work. The main couple are both very compelling. The mother figure is a bit more developed than her male counterpart, which makes sense given the film’s “mother nature” motif, but both of them have strong emotional arcs.
Noomi Rapace gives a very solid performance as the lead of the movie, bringing a lot of emotion to a role that easily could have leaned into the ridiculous. Hilmir Snær Guðnason provides an excellent foil to her, with a little less depth but still selling his role. Björn Hlynur Haraldsson rounds out the main cast well.
The film is definitely very impressive from a technical standpoint, but one should expect no less. The cinematography is gorgeous and utilizes the cold, foggy Icelandic settings quite well. And the integration of the titular creature into the visuals of the movie is effective and never distracting, selling the film where the story doesn’t.
Lamb is made to appeal to a certain audience, and those people will absolutely eat it up. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it’s a lot more shallow than it lets on and would have been much more effective had it embraced its simplicity.
Lamb is now playing in theaters.