Dan Owens’s review published on Letterboxd:
Maria had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb...
Ok no in all seriousness I quite enjoyed Valdimar Johannsson's 'Lamb'. It's a visually stunning, well scored, impeccably sound designed mystery/slow burn horror. With 3 great performances. One of which is well...rather interesting to say the least. Essentially following a couple of Icelandic Lamb farmers named Maria and Ingvar as they go about their day. Waking up early to feed their lambs, planting crops, and enjoying the rural Icelandic countryside. Occasionally having to assist in birthing baby lambs as apart of the process. Roughly the first act of the film focuses on this.
Enter the film's 2nd act. What seems to be yet another typical day on the farm, leads to a peculiar birth of a new lamb. With an ominous tone portrayed through the films score and some tight and stylistic camera work. At first only seeing images/glimpses of the new born lamb's face. We watch as Maria caresses the newborn, separating it from the rest of the pack. Taking it in as her own, for what seems to be no real apparent reason at this point in the film. A focus that carries out for most of the duration of the 2nd act.
Some spoilers from this point on:
It's now roughly at the halfway point of the film (middle of the 2nd act or so), where 'Lamb's' true nature and mystery begins to unfold. Up until this point a very slow, intimate, yet ominous tone has been carried out within the film. All that changes once you realize this is no mere lamb, but a half lamb, half human hybrid. A strange and miraculous birth, and when considering the films tone up to this point... Comes off as an allegory of the birth of Jesus Christ of sorts. Maria and Ingvar are both Sheppards without any children (much like Mary and Joseph), and rather than disposing of this anomaly, or even really questioning it... Both choose to immediately accept, and embrace it as if it was a miracle/act from God.
Now approaching the 3rd act and climax of the film. We watch as the newly established family of 3, continue to go about their lives as normally as possible. Raising now named "Ada" in the process. That's not to say there isn't a few bumps and twist along the way however. Ingvar's brother Petur shows up after being once again down on his luck. Immediately bewildered and distraught by the discovery of his new niece Ada. Momentarily causing a somewhat tense rift within the Icelandic farm household. All while the established ominous tone since the beginning continues to linger in the background...
Ultimately leading up to a properly dark, weird, and poetic A24 styled climax centering around the constructs of nature vs nurture. I must admit, despite the overall very slow nature of the film, the heavy themes it attempts to convey not being quite fully realized, or just the purposely strange avant-gardeness of it all. I very much enjoyed Valdimar Johannsson's 'Lamb' in the end. I may have wanted a bit more from it's narrative at times, but I can't deny it's technical beauty and prowess, or even it's sheer originality. Quite literally showcasing some of the best camera work and cinematography 2021 had to offer in my opinion too. With some great performances, and an interesting enough premise/setting to pull me in until the very end.