Brandon White’s review published on Letterboxd:
It has honestly been a while, but it’s high time for me to watch another A24 film. In usual A24 fashion from advertisements, I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, other then the fact that co-writer of this film name Sjón is going to be tackling the next Robert Eggers film The Northman. So in typical fashion, I figured I was going to get myself in something fucked up, but I don’t know what it’ll be. So I got the chance to watch it in an A24 screening room where I can just watch it in my living room and feel comfortable where I’m at. I also went at it with a bit of caution because of not only how mixed the reviews are on Letterboxd, but also the fact that it’s executive produced by the same director as Sátántangó, a film that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. So while this film does feel similar on a mainstream level to Sátántangó, I much rather watch this than that just because of how this is more up my alley of this level of dense to the overall presentation.
On paper, this type of premise should not work, in fact, it sounds very fucking stupid. A story about a farmer couple that is just doing their farmer work with a herd of sheep, shearing them, and getting the babies out of them. So when one baby came out, they decided to take the lamb in as their own child for their sense of longing that they so missed for a long time. Like it sounds really weird, but the execution and how it presented itself with that premise really shows that one should never judge a book by its cover. How it was directed is just intriguing that despite the pacing being very slow and monotonous, it’s very intentional this way that puts you in this lifeless world they’re living in that looks very droll despite the beautiful landscape that we’re seeing here. It’s a very melancholy feel to this sense of atmosphere that you really feel for their situation, despite their actions not being the best that might create some repercussions in the near future. It’s an endless cycle that we just happened to be in that, in my perspective, has a bit of a limbo/purgatory vibe to where they’re at right now.
With these characters, they know deep down what they’re doing is wrong, but it seems like they haven’t been this happy in a long time. It very much presents itself as this blindness of happiness that they’re feeling right in that moment, and you start to know why as the story progresses that really makes for a depressing time of this portrayal of grief. Noomi Rapace gave one of her best performances that I’ve seen from her career as of right now because she plays the farmer’s wife that was the first to take the lamb as their child, and she doesn’t want the mother of the lamb to see their child. There’s a lot to offer from this character that like her husband Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), they have a past connection with this longing that made them so happy and that without it, they just keep going in this cycle that feels very manufactured. The animals are also really great with one expressing this sort of feeling of jealousy or discomfort towards the baby lamb, and another that wants to see their child, but shivers when dealing with Ingvar and María (Noomi Rapace) that caught the animal by surprise.
I was just so unsettled by this film that felt like something is very off about what’s going on, and when the main story kicks in, that unsettledness kicked it even more for me that puts me in an uncomfortable state, especially when you know the reason why they took a baby lamb in as their child. There’s barely any score here, but I was so engaged in this story that I had no idea where it was going, that, and it’s just paced very well for me that works for the themes of grief and the sense of hopelessness. It also might have some religious aspects in this film that hold the limbo/purgatory aspect with more of standing, especially when dealing with death as well. Also, with this story being some form of a folklore legend, it can have some influence on it from real events that have a twist to it but change the story up to make it stand out on its own. Especially when it gets to the ending that really took me up for a loop that the film is really for your own interpretations of how you view it.
I can understand why this film doesn’t necessarily work for everybody as the pacing, once again, can be too much for some people to watch and instead watch something else that’s more of their speed. The subject matter here probably wouldn’t work for some that it’s on the fine line when tackling grief, the sense of longing, mourning, and the actions that the characters do that made you wonder about whether they’re in the good or not. It just kept me intrigued over this depressing film that reminds me of a Michael Haneke film where I just feel wrong inside for watching these poor farmers going through their trauma and suffering all the same. A24 has been going on this consistent level from me this year, and I’m honestly here for it. Whether I’m having fun, laughing, or depressed by the end of the film, this studio still remains to be my favorite one with Lamb being another great addition to their filmography.