María and Ingvar (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) are an Icelandic couple living on a remote farm in the mountains. Under the midnight sun, the pair discover a strange lamb in their sheep barn, which causes their lives to take a turn in a new direction.

Lamb features sparse dialogue, with much of the story told non-verbally, a challenge delivered well by an excellent cast. Rapace in particular gives a stand-out performance as the inscrutable María.

Writer-director Valdimar Jóhannsson delivers a masterclass in tonal uncertainty. Threats to the couple’s world are established, and then skirted past, while moments of domestic joy feel strangely uneasy. It’s not edge-of-your-seat stuff, but Lamb keeps the viewer guessing throughout, and the puzzle is an entertaining ride.

Lamb’s cinematography and sound design are where it shines most. Still frames of the interior of Maria and Ingvar’s home build a sense of their world with quiet elegance. The use of contrasting panels of dark and light recall paintings by Vermeer, creating a sense of stillness that shows the unchangingness of the pair’s lives. The midnight sun adds to this – the lack of darkness is a welcome break from many films in the horror/thriller canon. Whether Lamb can be called a true horror film is in question, however – there are more moments of humour than there are scares, with the film in line with Eggers’ The Witch. Both are gently eerie folktales that explore human and animal interactions. Lamb avoids moments of darkness even when they would be welcome, which is its only real limitation – many of the story’s primary mysteries are under-explored.

An unusual story, wonderful acting and a delightfully odd atmosphere make Lamb one to catch. An exchange between Petur and Ingvar neatly summarises how it feels to watch it: “What the fuck is this?” “Happiness.”



CAST: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson

DIRECTOR: Valdimar Jóhannsson

WRITERS: Sjón, Valdimar Jóhannsson

SYNOPSIS: Icelandic farmers María and Ingvar discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, but invites strange new threats into their way of life.