Nov 15, 2023
Aoife Duffin, Eanna Hardwicke, Evie and Faye O’Sullivan
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
The title of writer/director Sinead O’Loughlin’s short film, Lamb is detailed part way through the story by its chilling antagonist Paul (Hardwicke), explaining as he does that, “If you want a ewe to go somewhere, you don’t bother with her, you take the lamb,” and this rather brutal but pragmatic insight is the perfect microcosm for the rest of what we see on screen.
On this fateful given day, Sarah (Duffin) is taking time out at home with her baby daughter, Lucy (O’Sullivan). Everything seems to be pretty regular and mundane with the toast being burned, the smoke alarm going off and the door being opened to allow us to see the exterior of this small, lonely cottage tucked away in a leafy corner of the countryside. With character and setting duly established it’s not long before some sort of plot/conflict turns up in the form of Paul, sneaking in as he does through the open door and lurking in the out of focus background until it’s time for him to fully enter the frame.
Once firmly embedded in the scene, Paul quickly makes himself at home and sits down at the breakfast table for some toast and some tea. Unsure as to what’s really going on, and whether her home intruder is actually a threat or merely a little bit lost, both mentally and physically, Sarah then tries to placate him as best she can. It doesn’t take long though for Paul to play his hand and bare his teeth as he ramps up the tension and lets slip that he’s picked his timing perfectly after having Sarah under surveillance for quite some time.
So, following in the footsteps of a plethora of home invasion movies from Straw Dogs (1971), to Funny Games (1997), to Us (2019), Sarah has to figure out how to deal with the situation while simultaneously trying to keep her and her family safe. With only fifteen minutes for the entire scenario to play out she doesn’t have long and in the end it’s O’Loughlin’s canny writing which saves the day, along with some really strong performances from the two leads.
O’Loughlin’s direction is solid and sure, moving with and facing the characters as and when the focus is needed, while the cinematography from Dan Keane keeps plenty of light in the frame as the darkness creeps in through their movements and expressions. The sound design and minimal score from Die Hexen works well with the scenario but it’s really Eanna Hardwicke’s performance as Paul which sells Lamb to the audience. There’s nary a foot put wrong throughout the entire runtime save for maybe some baby cries which obviously don’t match with the infant on screen.
There’s a lot to recommend Lamb to the viewer with all technical aspects handled well, but sadly there’s not an awful lot to stand it apart either. At fifteen minutes the plot remains fairly basic and the seasoned audience member will already know the familiar feeling of tension from other, similar films. The story goes almost exactly where you expect it to with the dialogue taking a familiar route towards the denouement, just tweaked here and there to offer an Irish lilt. While Lamb is definitely strong in what it does, it does what it does and doesn’t go any further than that.