Written and directed by Katie McNeice, a young dad in rural Ireland must face his own anxiety around gender and bullying when his baby is born intersex. Starring: Fiach Kunz, Johanna O’Brien, Pat Shortt, Cate Russell, Gerry Cannon, Rebecca Hickey and Joe McNeice.
Intersex is not a condition which is often talked about or explored in film and television but it is one that’s incredibly complicated and comes with a severe amount of prejudice. One of the strongest elements of Lambing is the way in which it explores that, instead of going the traditional route of outrightly condemning that closed-mindedness and fear of anything outside of the accepted norm, it shows how it’s bred into society. Both through generations of family and medical professionals with strict traditional views, which is an extremely necessary conversation. Particularly in how the prejudices and discriminatory attitudes of your parents can warp your world view, pushing you to follow that hatred even though you may not even agree with it. As well as how that fear can pressure people into making crucial decisions too quickly. Following what’s being dictated and risking the health, and even life, of a new-born simply for the sake of societal expectation and most importantly, without the laws or safeguards in place to stop it. It’s a heavy topic but taking such an everyday route, helps to make it more relatable and accessible.
One of the other ways that Katie McNeice helps to make this story more open is through her direction, alongside Richard Kendrick’s cinematography, adding a surprising warmth to the atmosphere. Its palette is full of a loving hue which creates a wonderful intimacy, that is then enhanced by the gracefully understated but hugely effective score from Emer Kinsella. McNeice’s directorial style has a great eye for detail and texture, its variety of angles and framing manage to add a lot of depth while keeping such a personal tone. It establishes a family-focused, down to earth atmosphere but at the same time it does justice to the heavy nature of its subject. It’s also paced well to cover a lot of ground but hold onto a thoughtful, slow progression.
Fiach Kunz and Johanna O’Brien create inherently sympathetic characters, initially diving into their strong, sweet connection before exploring that each has their own flaws. Both of their performances are emotionally charged and created in such a way that it’s incredibly easy to put yourself in their position. They present a wide perspective, which again does justice to the topic, as it’s something that could happen to anyone. Pat Shortt and Cate Russell then offer interesting layers, Shortt presenting the harsh paternal figure who has shaped David’s view (Kunz), and Russell, a fiercely caring sister who’s simply committed to being there for them. While Gerry Cannon and Rebecca Hickey provide our medical duo, cold and prejudiced, pushing our new parents into decisions that they’re not yet equipped to make. Hickey in particular is interesting as she doesn’t feel entirely one-sided, there’s a glint of concern and genuine fear behind that knee-jerk prejudice.
Lambing is atmospheric, powerful and moving, exploring a necessary conversation about prejudice. It’s wonderfully shot, Katie McNeice creates an aesthetic full of warmth with a superb colour, texture and eye for detail. It captures both the everyday nature of the issue, as well as the powerfully affecting depth of the emotions. The visual is then supported by a perfectly done score and strong performances from the cast. It successfully gets across the vital nature of this discussion in a relatable and accessible way, understanding the flawed nature of people, as well as showing the need for more safeguards to protect vulnerable children.