Warning: This review may contain spoilers.
With October providing a plethora of horror films for the Halloween season, A24’s “Lamb” presents an interesting premise, with not much to offer underneath the surface.
The film is centered around married couple María, played by Noomi Rapace, and Ingvar, played by Hilmir Snær Guðnason, who tend to their flock of sheep. Through their uncomfortable interaction, it becomes apparent that their relationship with each other is very strained after something tragic happened to them.
The couple, unwilling or unable to talk about what has happened to them, choose instead to focus on their jobs. One day, one of their sheep gives birth to a strange baby, and it is not until later in the film that it is revealed to be a lamb-human hybrid.
With a brief moment of shock, Ingvar and María decide to take the baby in and name her Ada. A decision that ends up changing their lives.
There are many elements throughout the film, such as the performances, the environment and the special effects that “Lamb” presents in an intriguing way.
For starters, all the actors give a good performance in the film. They are able to deliver meaningful and emotional scenes easily, even with little to no dialogue. This may have been due to some of the actors being in a comfortable environment up in the mountainous and isolated regions of Iceland.
“‘Lamb’ was a great gift given to me. I could just be,” Noomi Rapace said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter while recounting her growing up on a farm in Iceland. “So it felt very truthful to what I knew from my childhood.”
“Lamb” also does a good job in its use of practical effects and CGI on Ada. Ada starts the movie as a newborn, and gradually grows up to around five or six years old by the end of the movie. These good effects are likely due to the debut director Valdimar Johannsson, who has worked as a special effects artist on movies such as “Star Wars: Rogue One” and “The Tomorrow War.”
The biggest flaw, however, is that the film tries to be too clever for its own good.
Due to the strained relationship between María and Ingvar, there is not much dialogue for about two-thirds of the movie. To replace the dialogue, the film opts for a more ‘show don’t tell’ sort of storytelling. This would normally be fine, but many of the details they show, some of which are crucial for understanding the end twist, are glossed over quickly.
There are many scenes where they show small elements that contribute to the story, such as the couple bringing out an old baby crib for Ada to sleep in or María staring down at a tombstone and ===placing flowers.
However, the bigger elements of the story are not shown properly or are barely shown any screen time. This results in plot elements that either waste time or, in the case of the ending, seemingly come out of nowhere.
Little attention is given to the unusual circumstances of the couple finding such a baby, nor do they seem curious as to how it happened. This can result in the audience seeing a lack of connection between the main characters.
Critics are having mixed opinions on the movie as well.
“‘Lamb’s’ flock of sheep—and tiny Ada—invite the audience to interrogate the lies we tell ourselves, both on an individual and more broadly human level,” The Daily Beast entertainment reporter Laura Bradley said in her review of the film.
“‘Lamb’ offers virtually no characterization, no inner life, no substance,” said New Yorker film reporter Richard Brody.
With the film receiving criticism like this, it is no surprise that several people in the audience began nodding off in their seats. This is a shame because the movie contains all the elements necessary for an incredibly scary experience: the isolation, the strangeness of Ada, the haunting music and the mysterious backstory.
However, “Lamb” instead chose to instead focus primarily on the couple’s work life. This seemed like it would be building up to something, however by the end of the movie there is seemingly no point for it.
With October being the month of the year that horror movies shine, there are likely far better horror movies out right now. Though it is technically accurate in covering the psychological horror genre, very little of the movie’s runtime is devoted to any kind of horror.