Warning: All the spoilers!
Lamb (2021) takes place in the misty mountainous setting of rural Iceland. Ingvar and María are a stoic farming couple who quietly and diligently care for their sheep. Their sleepy, methodical life is interrupted when one of their ewes gives birth to an otherworldly child. The couple decide to raise the infant as their own. Ada, whom the couple name after a deceased daughter, is a sheep-human hybrid. Although Ada is an unexpected blessing who brings much happiness into Ingvar and María’s lives, the couple receive omens throughout the story that perhaps the family they have formed is not meant to be. By ignoring these warnings, the story ends in a tragic outcome.
Lamb does not feel like a horror movie, at least not in the typical sense. The maternal hormones, cozy mountain dwelling, and relationship between Ada and her family is endearing more than horrifying. Indeed, the film focuses a lot of attention on María’s nurturing and protective instincts that govern her relationship with her adopted daughter. Having the infantile gestures of both a human child and a lamb, Ada is completely adorable, and it is easy to see why María and Ingvar can hardly let her out of their sight.
Beyond the parental tendencies, the film suggests another reason that the couple, María in particular, are so protective of Ada. Ada is a stolen child. I think the horror element of the movie exists in a sense similar to that of a Greek tragedy. As Ingvar’s trouble-making brother, Pétur, points out, “It’s an animal, not a child.” In other words, the familial bond that Ingvar and María are trying to create is not one ordained by nature. It’s a fact that they willfully ignore; María goes so far as to kill Ada’s mother to shut out a constant reminder of the truth. However, karma catches up to both Ingvar and María in the end.
The ending scene of Lamb leaves a few things to the imagination. However, the revelation of a creature who is suggested to be Ada’s biological father made me rethink the entire film as it implies that perhaps Ingvar and María were fully aware of Ada’s heritage and therefore more culpable of keeping her from it. After this creature kills Ingvar and leads Ada away into the mountains, María arrives on the scene to discover that she is too late to protect her daughter this time. María’s silent stare at what is presumably footprints near the body of her husband suggests that she understands what has happened and feels the grief of a day she had hoped would never come.
I can honestly say that Lamb is my favorite thing from A24 so far. And yes, I know A24 is basically a meme at this point, but I can’t help myself. Lamb is folky and heartwarming, yet eerie and unsettling. It is mythical in its telling and complete in its tragic-ness. It is the kind of content I am here for and the kind I hope to see more of in the future.
Mountains and Stuff10.0/10
A24 Characters Staring in Silence8.0/10
- Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
- Writers: Sjón, Valdimar Jóhannsson
- Cast: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson
- Distributor: A24