The human and animal worlds collide in strange ways in 2021.
COVID-vaccine reluctant ignoramuses chose to ingest Ivermectin, a veterinary medication used primarily in the treatment of parasitic infestations. In cattle. And sheep. But that didn’t stop anti-science Trumpers from scooping it up and hoarding it, resulting in shortages for veterinarians.
Onscreen, it was a veritable menagerie, including “Pig,” “Swan Song,” “Little Fish,” and “The Starling,” as well as the upcoming “Wolf” and “Cicada.” Valdimar Jóhannsson’s “Lamb” (A24) is, by far, the most bizarre offering of the genus, if you will.
Childless, Icelandic sheep farmers Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) go about their daily lives as you might expect. They feed the flock in the barn, herd them in the meadow, and assist ewes in the birthing process when necessary. The landscape is alternately bleak and breathtaking.
Then something completely unexpected occurs: a ewe gives birth to a lamb with combined sheep and human features. Maria and Ingvar name it Ada and raise it as part of their family. It’s as unsettling as it sounds, but also cute and cuddly at the same time.
But there are elements at work that have the power to disrupt the happy family, beginning with the ewe who relentlessly baas outside the window of the room where Ada sleeps in a crib. Ingvar’s ne’er doing well brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) arrives on their doorstep after being dumped out of the trunk of a Volvo.
Pétur, a former musician with an Icelandic pop band (Jóhannsson co-wrote the screenplay with writer and musician Sjón, who has collaborated with Bjork, and also authored the gay-themed novel “Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was”), has difficulty wrapping his head around the concept of his new niece, but eventually bonds with her in the most adorable way. Unfortunately, he also carries a torch for Maria which eventually leads to him being expelled from the farmhouse.
However, the real threat to the family is the thing that ultimately shifts “Lamb” from sweetly surreal to full-on horror. Without revealing too much (spoilers = bad), once this aforementioned thing, which is sure to terrify many people, makes its presence felt nothing good comes of it.
The combination of the effectively subtle visual effects, as well as the way the trio of actors fully embraces the concept, is what makes the whole thing go down as easy as mint jelly.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of seven books including the expanded edition of his short story collection How to Whistle (Rattling Good Yarns Press, 2021). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.