A childless couple taking possession of someone else’s baby and a birth mother not willing to part with her offspring. So far the plot of Lamb does not sound too unconventional. Until you take into account that the baby and mother in question are sheep.

We are introduced to María and Ingvar’s daily life on their farm: they take care of the land, feed the animals, assist with the lambing. Their unforeseen decision to take one of these lambs and raise it as their own seems like a curious case of folie à deux at first. They wrap her in blankets, put up a crib in their bedroom and try their best to ignore the wistful bleating of the robbed mother. As we eventually learn the reason behind this adoption, more questions are raised than answered: some of the newborn’s body parts are human.

In his debut feature, writer-director Valdimar Jóhannsson manages to create a multidimensional film that is both a family drama and an ominous fairy tale. The story, set against the impressive backdrop of rural Iceland, is reminiscent of long-lost folklore. Despite instances of lightness and the occasional chuckle from the audience at the movie’s premiere, the situation is not played for laughs. Rather, the earnest portrayal of such an outlandish concept invokes a humourous reception as a welcome byproduct.

Noomi Rapace, known for her absolute dedication to every role, carries the picture with her understated emotionality. If she didn’t have first-hand experience with farm life, she undoubtedly would have sunk her teeth into it in order to prepare for this performance. It should not go unmentioned that the supporting cast of sheep also add a striking emotive layer; the expressive eyes in the opening sequence set the tone for the events about to unfold.

Lamb is a hidden gem in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2021 festival and upon cinematic release, will easily capture the hearts of independent film lovers.

★★★★☆

Selina Sondermann

Lamb does not have a UK release date set.

For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.

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