Lambs of God is one of those series that isn’t easy to define. It blends genres so seamlessly that it feels fresh and new by the time the credits roll on the final episode, though the elements used to create the series are all tried and true.
Based on the novel by Marele Day, the series centers on the lives of three nuns living a life of seclusion in a forgotten abbey dedicated to St. Agnes on a remote island. These are no ordinary nuns, however.
For starters, they believe their flock of sheep is made up of the reincarnated souls of the nuns of their order who have died. While they spend their days in prayer and knitting and creating various herbal medications and dyes, the stories they tell around their tables are twisted version of fairy tales many of which relate more closely to the source material of those tales than the versions most of us heard as children.
These three generations of women each have their own role to play, but none of them are prepared when a young priest stumbles into their sequestered lives. When they realize the priest is there with the intent of assessing the abbey to be sold and converted into a luxury hotel, they take the man prisoner and their lives quickly spin out of control.
Directed by Jeffrey Walker (Riot) with scripts written by Sarah Lambert and Day, Lambs of God grips its audience from the very first moments not only because the series is well-written and directed, but because their four leads are absolutely spectacular.
Emmy-winner Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hereditary) is remarkable as Sister Margarita, the oldest of the three nuns. She quickly turns from harsh violence to abject humility and vulnerability without ever falling to caricature. We believe her belief without question, even as we glimpse the events in her past that led her to the abbey.
Likewise Essie Davis (The Babadook) is stunning as Sister Iphegenia. She is without a doubt the leader of their unlikely convent, which she manages with patience and a stern hand when needed. Davis’s performance is raw and hypnotic. She is a woman on a ledge with almost-expert balance.
Jessica Barden (Hanna) rounds out the trio of nuns. Sister Carla is the youngest, and she breathes life and a starry-eyed innocence into the character who, at 24 years old, has managed to hold onto the freshness of youth while locked away from the outside world.
Rounding out the central cast, Sam Reid (Anonymous) takes on the role of Ignatius, the interloper priest, and like his co-stars, the actor brings honesty to his role that makes Ignatius’s journey believable and at times, heart-wrenching.
It’s almost a cliche to refer to the setting of a film as a character all its own, and yet it is undeniable here. The convent of St. Agnes is dramatic with richly textured walls and statuary. There are moments when the very building seems to breathe and to actively take part in the conspiracy to hide the lives of its nuns away from the world.
Sadly, most of the supporting cast isn’t given as much development. With the exception of Kate Mulvany in the role of Ignatius’s sister, Frankie, most are given little to do, and there were moments when I expected the Priests aka The Villains to twirl their non-existent pencil line mustaches.
As I said from the start, Lambs of God is difficult to pin down. It is part psychological thriller, part dark fairy tale, and part family drama. Yet, somehow, those things never seem to get in the way of or detract from the other.
The writers wisely left the supernatural elements of the story up to the viewer to interpret while still using them to advance the story with a light layering of mysticism. Though they are Catholic nuns dedicated to the Convent of St. Agnes their roles and lives become archetypes much larger than the faith of the Church.
Lambs of God is currently available to stream on Topic, a streaming platform with a variety of interesting programming options. Check out the trailer for the series below!