This movie is baaad (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Unless you’re a pretentious movie critic that likes anything “artsy”, ewe will be very disappointed (okay, that was the last one).
This film out of Iceland, was written and directed by Valdimar Johannnsson, who was a special effects guy in Hollywood for years (Rogue One, Prometheus). This is his film debut behind the camera.
Eli Arensen shoots it beautifully. We can see Iceland as both a hostile, windy, snowy environment...and at other times, a peaceful place that would be lovely for a sheep farm (especially if you’re doing this with the woman from The Girl With the DragonTattoo).
Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer) and Maria (Noomi Rapace) seem a bit bored, or unhappy, with their solitary life in this remote countryside. We’ll later find out they lost a child, which sort of explains the sorrow. One beautiful morning, they’re given a gift. Sort of. One of the sheep gives birth to a lamb, that kind of shocks them. The film smartly takes a while before it shows us why they were shocked (but you’ve seen the trailers and already know) -- it’s because it has a lamb head on a human body which made me wonder why Maria didn’t look at her husband and say “I wondered what you were doing in the barn late at night!!”
But this is no comedy. In fact, it was billed as a horror movie, but not a single scary thing happens in it (horror fans that go to see it will be very disappointed). So every time you see the lamb-baby, it just takes you out of the movie.
It’s also not a very interesting story about a married couple. They don’t say much to each other, even when they both actually become happy raising this lamb as their child.
My wife was giving me a hard time at first, saying I wouldn’t understand the symbolism and things related to the Bible, the lamb of God, born on Christmas Eve in barn, blah blah blah (or baa, baa, baa).
The plot thickens, sort of, when Ingvar’s ne’er-do-well brother Petur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson), or should I say -- black sheep of the family -- shows up. We know he’s bad news because he’s literally thrown out of a vehicle before he arrives. And he smokes and sneaks around the barn spying on the couple the day before he actually announces his presence.
Luckily, he asks exactly what the audience is thinking: “What the fu** is that?”
He’s not given an explanation, other than to be told they’re now happy. So, he goes along and tries to play the part of a good uncle. He takes the lamb on a tractor, fishing, and even holds her in bed. Oh sure, there’s one moment where he’s about to go all “Lenny and the rabbits” on the creepy creature.
Among the many things that don’t make sense in the movie -- Petur continues to flirt with Maria. Touching her face or spying on her when she takes a bath. Yet she never tells her husband. I kept thinking it was because they had previously had a relationship or affair, but neither is ever revealed.
It is somewhat interesting when he tries to blackmail her into sexual favors, and it’s also interesting what the thing is he blackmails her with. It was a powerful scene done earlier in the movie (that I won’t spoil, in case you want to see this boring film). Why ruin the one terrific scene in the film?
Even the conclusion to Petur’s story in the film, kind of just peters out.
When the baby lamb is confused by them watching a sporting event, or seeing a painting with other sheep, or spying herself in a mirror and what she looks like -- we think something is going to change the family dynamic. Nope, it’s not until the very end of the movie, when a scene happens that will have you laughing at the ridiculousness of it.
The movie was an hour and 45 minutes and I was so bored, my mind just wandered. I thought about the movie Splice, and how that dealt with raising a creature as human. I thought about Bong Joon-ho’s (Parasite) debut Okja. And, having just seen Nicolas Cage in Pig last month, I’m wondering -- if movies are all going to be titled after songs from Pink Floyd’s Animals album. I also thought of the Rolling Stones album Goats Head Soup (the insert of that album was creepier than this film).
And while you’re probably supposed to think of the Nativity story (her name is Maria, which is close enough to Mary), I thought more of a sketch the comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall did. They had a chicken lady born in a barn. You’re better off finding that and watching it.
Now, I applaud A24 for always giving us such interesting films. This one was a big misfire, though.
1 ½ stars out of 5.