The atmospheric Lamb opens on a snowy Christmas Eve on a sheep farm in Iceland. We sense that the camera, slowly lurching towards a wooden sheep pen, is someone's POV. We hear sinister grunting off camera. There's something evil trodding across the frozen Icelandic terrain... and it apparently knocks up one of the sheep.
Five months later, the childless couple running the farm (Hilmar Snær Gudnason and Swedish-born Hollywood star Noomi Rapace, speaking fluent Icelandic) tend to the springtime birthing of the lambs. When they assist the sheep who had been mysteriously impregnated that Christmas Eve, they discover that its baby is, shall we say, rather unusual. The camera refuses to show us what it looks like – fear not, the secret will be revealed soon enough – but we know something's up, as the two whisk up the lambkin, bundle it in cloth, and take it to their house to live with them.
Although Lamb ostensibly adopts a handful of horror tropes, there's nothing to fear here. No jump scares, no chills, no squirm-inducing moments (unless you're squeamish about the routine details of animal husbandry). It's really just a modern-day fable – even a perverse sort of hangout movie. There's little story. We mostly just spend time on the farm with the couple, the husband's slacker brother (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), and the growing lambkin, whom the couple calls "Ada". Only at the very end do things suddenly wrap up, quite strangely and hauntingly. Mostly the film is a quiet, quirky look at the meaning of parenthood.
I must single out Lamb's director of photography, Israeli cinematographer Eli Arenson. Not only because he does such a nice job here but because he worked on my short film 20 Matches back in 2015. He served as first assistant camera under my film's DP Marianne Williams. Eli purposefully refused credit on 20 Matches because he wished to establish his name as a DP and didn't want an IMDb filmography packed only with assistant camera credits. Ironically, other filmmakers ignored his request, and thus Lamb marks Eli's first feature credit as DP. It's an auspicious debut that is bound to open many doors for him. I wish him all the best.