Prestigious new TV show you can stream now
The stories we tell matter.
Whether it's stories we tell ourselves about ourselves or the stories we don't tell - those are the choices that define who are.
Storytelling is at the heart of Lambs of God, the new Australian drama which debuted on Foxtel last night.
With a cast that includes Ann Dowd (Handmaid's Tale, The Leftovers), Essie Davis (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, The Slap) and Jessica Barden (The End of the F**king World), it's a moody gothic series that screams prestige.
It's a stunningly crafted four-episode series with electric performances and beautiful cinematography.
Dowd, Davis and Barden play three cloistered nuns who live on an isolated island monastery, cut off by their own vows and a commitment to a different life. They're self-sustaining - growing their own food, shunning electricity, and being each other's emotional and spiritual support.
They have a flock of sheep from which they source their wool and knit. While they knit, they tell each knitting stories, refashioned fairy tales such as Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Briar Rose or Beauty and the Beast.
But these well-known stories don't end how we expect them to. They're tweaked as the women weave their personal histories into the endings, just as they weave parts of themselves into the wool for their cloaks.
Their contented life is upended when a young priest, Father Ignatius (Sam Reid), comes to survey the island, sent on a mission with nefarious motives by a bishop (John Bell) who comes to symbolise all that is corrupt in an unmoveable institution like the Catholic church.
The women have crafted a life that is undeniably female, a nurturing, earthy and unassuming existence that violently clashes with the arrogance and patriarchy of the church.
Ignatius's presence is a threat to the women, and they react in a primal way to his arrival, as a means to protect themselves, their actions a manifestation of their past traumas.
It's these traumas, these stories of their own lives, that they have to confront.
Meanwhile, on the mainland, Ignatius sister Frankie (Kate Mulvaney) is anxious her brother hasn't turned for a promised visit. They have a strained relationship but as the show unfolds, Ignatius' story, one which he too has repressed, is told by his sister.
It's only through these stories that Lambs of God's characters can find redemption and salvation.
The series may condemn the institution of the church, but it's 100 per cent behind faith as a whole. What it wants is recognition for the stories and contributions of women beyond the rigidity and judgement of the institution, an institution designed for the benefit of men.
Lambs of God is beautifully and stylistically directed by Jeffrey Wright (Ali's Wedding) and written by Sarah Lambert (Love Child) from a book by Marele Day.
The production values are wonderful, and the story takes you to unexpected places and depths. It subverts your expectations, starting off as a gothic thriller before shifting gears into something more transcendent.
Even though the back half of the series feels a little rushed, by then you're hooked, and you are committed.
There are some great supporting performances as well from Sigrid Thornton, Daniel Henshall and Damon Herriman, but Dowd and Davis are so entrancing.
While it's a wholly Australian production, filmed in Sydney and on location in the Blue Mountains and Tasmania, the story itself is set in the UK, just before the millennium.
But its rich themes are universal, applicable to any culture with a tradition of storytelling (ie. all of them), as it weaves its narrative and filmic magic across the screen.
All four episodes of Lambs of God are available to stream on Foxtel Now. Fox Showcase is broadcasting the episodes weekly on Sundays at 8.30pm.
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