LAMB (2021) is a visually striking, weird film about parental love and the natural order. I loved it, though the ending left me wanting.
In rural Iceland, Ingvar and Maria farm their land. The property is filled with animals–sheep, horses, a dog, a cat–but the couple obviously feel empty. Soon, we get hints of the tragic loss of a child. When an unnatural newborn is birthed in their sheep barn, they decide to raise it as their own, though its family seeks to reclaim it.
That’s kind of it as far as the plot goes. Ingvar’s brother Petur, a former rocker with impulse control issues, shows up to stir the pot, but it has little overall bearing on the story. Most of what we see is the couple going about their day, the raising of the strange child, and the hauntingly beautiful Icelandic scenery. This isn’t quite an art house film, but it does require a lot of patience. In that, it kind of reminded me of VALHALLA RISING, slow but striking and soulful in the visual telling. It gets under your skin, assisted in no small part by Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason’s understated but affecting acting.
What really carries the film is the child itself. It’s weird and unnatural and oddly adorable, and yet the couple treats it as perfectly natural and give it all the love they’ve got. This is a great strength of the film, how seriously it takes its weird element. I found myself utterly sucked into it.
I won’t touch the ending out of fear of spoilers except to say it’s shocking and it makes sense, but it left me wanting, wanting as in I was saying, “Oh, is that it?” The filmmakers said it’s all open to interpretation, but they sort of set up a folk tale lacking a strong moral (or evidence of it through the characters being truly tested), making this one of those indie movies with an ending “intentionally open to interpretation” but where you wonder as a viewer if the makers simply didn’t know how to end it. A few extra minutes would have gone a long way there to bring it all home, define the new normal after the story ends, and crystalize the theme.
But that’s just me. Overall, I loved LAMB and recommend it. It’s a remarkable debut, an odd but firmly grounded modern folk tale.