A SHORT film made in Cork played in this year’s Galway Film Fleadh last week, following its successful premiere at New York’s prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.
Written and directed by Cork-based filmmaker Sinéad O’Loughlin, Lamb is a powerful psychological drama starring Glanmire actor Éanna Hardwicke and Kerry actor Aoife Duffin.
It revolves around Sarah (Duffin), whose day is interrupted when Paul (Hardwicke) comes into her house uninvited, threatening Sarah and her baby, Lucy, played by Evie and Faye O’Sullivan.
It is a powerful and dark piece of filmmaking which O’Loughlin says was inspired by staying alone in her family home in Wicklow.
“A few years ago, my parents were away at a wedding. I realised it was my first time staying in the family home alone,” said Sinéad. “It was summer, and usually, we would leave the doors unlocked.
“I’ve lived in urban areas and always locked the door, but I never felt unsafe in my family home until then. It got me thinking women always have to be aware of their safety. I was annoyed how women are policed within public and private spaces.”
O’Loughlin, who has a background in theatre and short films, moved to East Cork in 2019 and says it is important to her to immerse herself in Cork’s film scene, working with local actors and crew where possible.
Hardwicke, who appeared in the breakout television show, Normal People, gives a particularly terrifying performance.
“It was during the pandemic, so I met Éanna online. He was so engaged and prepared. He described Paul as a kicked dog and loved how he was already thinking about psychology. We were fortunate to rehearse in the Everyman Theatre when we were allowed to meet. I saw first-hand how brilliant he is.”
Paul has a secret, but O’Loughlin decided not to share it with the actors.
“I had writer’s notes from my funding application but chose not to give them the notes. When writing a script, you can make certain assumptions, but the actors have to make decisions to feel invested in the character. I was more interested in hearing what they had to say.”
Things are changing, but in many films, mothers are depicted stereotypically with perfect hair and tidy outfits, none of which reflects reality. O’Loughlin was determined to stay away from the stereotypes regarding Sarah’s look.
“I didn’t want it to be like a washing powder ad. We weren’t interested in presenting that version of a mother. I’m at an age where many of my friends are becoming mothers and are still the same people as they were before.
“The stereotypes we see are not the mothers I grew up with and are not the ones I see in my friends; they are complicated people.
“I spoke with Aoife about this, and we agreed that we weren’t interested in stereotypes. She brings so much to the role; I was delighted to work with her.”
Lamb was shot on a cottage on the grounds of the 850-acre Ballynatray Estate in Youghal.
“We had a terrible time finding a location last summer because restrictions had been lifted for internal travel. All the Airbnbs and self-catering were all booked up. We were stressed because we only had a small window to film in terms of crew and cast availability. I was working on another project which was being filmed on the grounds of the estate.
“They opened one of the cottages in case we needed to use the bathroom, and lo and behold, I walked in the door, and it was perfect. It was the exact kitchen lay-out I needed. It felt like a miracle when we found it was available.”
O’Loughlin worked with producer Lara Hickey, who she met through the X-Pollinator initiative in 2019. The initiative aims to foster female and non-binary crew and creatives.
Over 60% of Lamb’s crew and creative team are female, and O’Loughlin says gender balance is important to her.
Two vital cast members are twin babies Evie and Faye O’Sullivan from West Cork, who both play Sarah’s baby. It is impossible to direct babies, but O’Loughlin says her little stars were naturals.
“I met them and their mother online because of Covid. They were Covid babies, so hadn’t seen many people. Their parents weren’t sure how they would be with a crew, but they were brilliant. Their mother and aunt were chaperones and were so flexible and helped us work with them.”
O’Loughlin says she will submit the film to festivals here and abroad and looks forward to seeing audiences respond to it.
“So far, people have engaged with the film and have many theories about Paul’s secret. I love hearing people talk about it; it is a great feeling to know that people are interested in it to continue the conversation after seeing it.”