Lambs of God is the best miniseries Foxtel has produced since Cloudstreet in 2011, and the best local drama of 2019.
At just 4 episodes it has a clear vision, executed with precision by a collaboration of skilled storytellers.
Tapping into a trend for dark, bingeworthy dramas, it looks quite magnificent in the hands of acclaimed cinematographer Don McAlpine. While it’s easy to be swept up in the arresting visuals of a crumbling monastery perched high atop a cliff face, there are some insidious themes explored in the script by Sarah Lambert.
Three isolated nuns (Essie Davis, Ann Dowd and Jessica Barden) are the last remnants of the Order of St. Agnes, living a humble lifestyle without electricity or the trappings of modern life. Their flock of sheep represent the spirit of their deceased sisters, and Sister Iphigenia (Essie Davis) even has the gift of visions.
Yes, these three live by their own fundamental rules, and not that of the Roman Catholic Church -nor its dogma gripped by men.
However their simple life is invaded when a handsome young priest Father Ignatius (Sam Reid) comes calling unexpectedly.
As they welcome him into their candle-lit fortress, there are glimpses of dark comedy as they encounter their very first mobile phone -also the first hint by Lambert of any sense of time: 1999.
However desperation takes hold when they discover the Church wants to sell their property to commercial interests. Father Ignatius quickly shifts from visitor to hostage….
Over the ensuing three hours things escalate rising and falling in harrowing degrees. While the first chapter is essentially a four-hander, the reality of the mainland hits home when Ignatius’ sister Frankie (Kate Mulvany) worries over his absence. She commandeers local Sgt. Barnaby (Daniel Henshall) to conduct a search. John Bell, Damon Herriman and Sigrid Thornton also feature.
Chameleon Essie Davis is forthright as Sister Iphigenia, trying to maintain her grip on their fragile world, while Ann Dowd, famed for The Handmaid’s Tale, displays both vulnerability and terror as Sister Margarita.
Director Jeffrey Walker masterfully weaves it all together, eliciting compelling performances from his cast, spotlighting sympathies of both old and new, and playing with a ranged of complex, delicate emotions and suppressed pasts. Rarely do so many departments sing as one as they do here (and if TV is dying I’ll be over her bingeing with archangel Gabriel).
It’s almost a shame this has Screen Tasmania and Create NSW in the opening credits -it takes away from being hoodwinked that the setting is actually offshore Britain. No question, in what’s on screen Lambs of God holds its own on a world stage.
You can wait until this wins a swag of awards, or just get on board now.
Lambs of God double episode screens 8:30pm Sunday on FOX Showcase.