Bridget is an American woman traveling with her husband Patrick to Ireland. But this is no mere vacation: she’s there to track down her long-lost father, though she doesn’t want to reveal herself as his daughter right away.
But when she meets her dad on the farm where he lives and works, her plan to pose as a stranger becomes increasingly convoluted and seems unsuccessful at first. But despite the complications, nature forces her to realize she and her father have more of a connection than either could imagine.
Written and directed by Jeannie Donohoe, this offbeat dramedy situates one woman’s search for identity and family within a pastoral, homespun setting, finding gentle ironies in the juxtaposition of personal turmoil within a bucolic, picturesque backdrop.
But the contrast also gives an equanimity to the storytelling and emotional tenor, a sturdiness that is also woven into the naturalistic, almost documentary-style camerawork. Responsive and sensitive, the pacing and editing gives breathing room to story beats of the narrative, allowing viewers to settle into the characters and milieu. What could become a heavy emotional drama has a certain ease, finding affection and empathy in the foibles of its characters.
The perceptive, emotionally intelligent writing also has a lightness of touch and confidence to it, finding humor in Bridget’s somewhat strenuous attempts to find out more about a missing part of her past. (There’s also glints of humor found in the couple’s differing commitments to keeping up their ruse.) But it also never loses touch with the deep melancholy of not growing up with a father, allowing Bridget moments of grief, pain and loss as she navigates the situation she’s created.
Lead actor Breeda Wool navigates layers of submerged sadness and anger coming to surface, as well as gently hitting the comic flourishes of the story, which grace the storytelling without ever disrupting the larger emotional journey she travels. When this journey takes a sharp turn and nature asserts itself, it punctures the pastoral pace and subtlety for maximum emotional impact — and forces the truth to come to surface, along with all the messy emotions that come along with it.
“Lambing Season” treads deep psychological territory, but it gently refuses melodrama, instead training its eye on the clumsy fumbles of people trying to poke at painful truths without risking their own vulnerability. Bridget has spent a lifetime mourning a father she never had, so it’s a natural impulse for her to hide her true identity as she tries to meet and learn more about him. But when both father and daughter stand in the truth of who they are, the film reveals an emotional generosity at its core, which gives its characters the space to negotiate these difficult emotions and the dignity of their own experience — and finally lets them take the tentative steps towards understanding.