Written and directed by Sinéad O’Loughlin, an ordinary day takes a sinister turn for a woman and her child when a stranger walks into their isolated rural home. Starring: Aoife Duffin, Éanna Hardwicke, Evie O’Sullivan and Faye O’Sullivan.
Introducing an unknown element into a happy, homely environment is a staple of cinema, and when used well it opens up endless possibilities of danger, threat and violence. The key to succeeding is not immediately giving in to any of those elements but to hold the possibility of them in the threshold, so that all the focus is on the tension and suspense, which is what Sinéad O’Loughlin achieves here. The pacing is slow and gradual, it has a sincere confidence in the way that it moves, so if you’re expecting it to cheaply give in to a desire for carnage and chaos, you’ll be disappointed. It’s determined to keep you on that knife’s edge of potential disaster from start to finish, though that’s not to say it doesn’t satisfyingly round out its story.
There are actually quite a few elements that are satisfying to the script, particularly in how it uses the language of violent and threatening men. It’s something you’ll likely have seen examples of on social media, women posting the wildly baffling and unwelcome interactions that they’ve had with men in their DMs. The standout typically being “I’m not going to rape you”, it would take a deep and disturbing psychological dive to figure out why any person would think this would be a non-threatening or comforting thing to say. It’s used very well as it doesn’t take over the story but there are little gems woven throughout which say more than the character’s simple dialogue. It also interestingly throws in a touch of comedy or lightness as it nears its end.
Sinéad O’Loughlin’s directorial style holds a nice use of detail right from the start, accenting its otherwise minimal and understated style with some great close-up shots. Another indicator of its quality is that it holds that great tension and takes place in one singular, small location but it never feels claustrophobic. There’s a balance in its use of space, to close in those walls as the plot develops rather than pushing a simple trapped feeling, evoking instead a battle of wills, as Sarah (Aoife Duffin) weighs up her options for escape and safety.
Aoife Duffin and Éanna Hardwicke work very well together, they’re both bringing to the table characters which feel familiar yet new. Duffin’s young mother Sarah is reminiscent of those who have come before yet holds onto an original edge. There’s the sneaking suspicion that there’s more to her situation than meets the eye, her lack of immediate questioning also shows she has an awareness and keen self-preservation. Hardwicke brings a sinister smile, twisting polite and friendly dialogue with a menacing edge then adding in a physicality as his character’s patience wears thin.
Lamb is slow-burning, tension rising, subtly threatening and smartly written. It’s shot well to embrace the suspense and push you to the edge of your seat, lasering the focus right to the characters. Aoife Duffin and Éanna Hardwicke give great performances, holding back the right amount to not give away the journey too fast. The entire style plays to what we know while holding a sense of originality, it never gives in too much to convention and moves with confidence. It walks a great line of being menacing but not overtly dark, simple yet complex, and holds out that touch of hope for its heroine to outsmart her uninvited guest.