Lamb

Lamb is a horror/fantasy/drama.  The story concerns Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), two Icelandic farmers.  They lost a child years ago, and their lives are now filled with the routine tasks of tending to their field and their flock of sheep.  One day, an ewe gives birth to a lamb that is not a lamb.  It’s part lamb, part human.  Seeing the lamb a second chance at motherhood, Maria takes it from the barn and cares for it as if it were her own baby.  The trio become a family, but the unexpected return of Ingvar’s ne’er-do-well brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) threatens their happiness.  Before long, Maria is forced to confront the tension between her and Pétur, as well as the ramifications of taking the lamb from its birth mother.

First-time director Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb is undeniably strange and weird. The story he tells is meditative and pensive, however, one that explores complex themes within a haunting, other-worldly landscape. Through Maria and Ingvar, Jóhannsson forces us to consider two seemingly disparate topics: humanity’s place in the natural world and the lingering effect of tragedy on motherhood. Rapace gives one of her best performances, one that utilizes her unique acting talents to their fullest. If you’re open to unique movie going experiences, Lamb is richly rewarding in unexpected ways.  Highly recommended.

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CODA (2021)

Ruby (Emilia Jones), a high school girl in Gloucester, Massachusetts, gets up every morning before dawn to help her father Frank (Troy Kotsur) and brother Leo (Daniel Durant) with the daily catch.  She loves to sing and does so very well, but she also happens to be the sole member of her family who can hear, a Child of Deaf Parents (or CODA).  A spur-of-the-moment decision to join the school choir helps her realize her true potential, and the help of her teacher Mr. V (Eugenio Derbez) could land her a college scholarship to study music.  

However, if Ruby’s dreams come true, that would mean leaving her family without a translator for the hearing world.  Will Ruby abandon her dreams of going to college to stay home and continue to help the family business?  Or will her family let her go and find a different way to earn a living?  CODA certainly follows the tried-and-true formula used by many coming-of-age movies that have preceded it.  The difference being that the moving, realistic performances more than make up for the lack of originality of the story.  CODA will definitely tug at your heart strings, but it does so honestly, without relying on melodrama or sentimentality.  The movie is a big win for inclusive storytelling on several fronts.  First, Ruby’s family is portrayed by actors who are deaf in real life.  Second, its honest depiction of Ruby’s family members shows how, contrary to cinematic cliches, they act just like normal people.  (They enjoy drinking beer, smoking and having sex.)   Finally, and most importantly, CODA serves as a prime example of how, with a modicum of effort, people with disabilities or impairments can participate in society just like everybody else.  Highly Recommended.

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