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lamb review
A young couple make a life-changing discovery on their farm.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Valdimar Joìhannsson

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson

lamb poster

Like its recent Swedish cousin, KoKo-Di KoKo-Da, Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson's feature debut Lamb uses elements of folk-horror to explore themes of grief and man's relationship with nature. Ironically, for a movie filled with a sense of foreboding doom, it also features a CG/puppetry creation as adorable as anything to come out of the Disney factory.

Married farmers Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) spend their days running their sheep farm, only communicating to pass on notes regarding broken down tractors and the like. Something awful has clearly happened in their recent past to leave them this way, and they badly need something to give their lives a sense of purpose beyond professional duty.

lamb review

That something arrives when a sheep gives birth, not to a lamb, but to a lamb-human hybrid with the body of a human infant, albeit with a trotter where one of its hands should be, and the head of a sheep. Rather than recoiling in terror, Maria and Ingvar make an unspoken pact to raise the creature as though it were their own child, naming it Ada.


Trouble is, it's not their child, and the creature's mother cries hysterically outside their window for her offspring. Something else is lurking in the mist around the farm, represented by a heavy breathing and snorting sound. And when Ingvar's layabout brother Petur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) shows up at the farm, the unconventional family Maria and Ingvar have built finds itself under threat.

lamb review

Through a mix of brooding horror and deadpan comedy, Lamb explores the question of what makes a family. If Maria and Ingvar choose to raise this unique creature in the manner of a child, what of it? Who is being harmed? Of course, the issue of whether man has a right to keep animals in captivity is also raised. Are Maria and Ingvar right to give Ada a home, or they simply using the creature as a substitute for something else beyond their reach? Would Ada have a better life with her own kind? What even is her own kind – humans or sheep?


Along with KoKo-Di KoKo-Da, Lamb shares elements with another recent movie, the French oddity Anonymous Animals, in which humans are treated as cattle by vengeful human-animal hybrids. All animals start out cute like Ada, but what might a sheep-human hybrid grow into? Jóhannsson's slowburn storytelling, which makes great use of the almost mystical Icelandic landscape, suggests this bond between man and animal won’t end well.

lamb review

But along with the foreboding sense of doom, there's much in the way of black comedy, particularly when Petur naturally questions the life he finds his brother and sister-in-law living. One of the film's lighter moments features a spot-on parody of Scandinavian synth-pop groups.

Ultimately Lamb is about the notion of live and let live. Unfortunately, that's not such a simple notion, as what constitutes "living" varies from person to person, animal to animal.

Lamb
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.