March 30, 2020 The Other Lamb (Movie Review)
Sometimes the bravest thing that a young woman can do is to forge her own path. A wild woman with the strength to dream of freedom comes of age in The Other Lamb, a new Drama-Horror blend. IFC Midnight delivers the film to VOD and Digital platforms on Friday, April 3rd, 2020.
“Pious and perfect” Selah (Raffey Cassidy: Tomorrowland 2015, The Killing of a Sacred Deer 2017) was born into an all-female cult. As one of the daughters in blue, she understands all too well what her welcoming into womanhood will mean. With her menses expected any day now, fear causes the teen to begin to question her life and her leader, Shepherd (Michiel Huisman: Game of Thrones series, The Age of Adaline 2015).
Clocking in at 98 minutes, The Other Lamb comes to us thanks to the exceptional team of Director Malgorzata Szumowska (In the Name of 2013, Body 2015) and Writer Catherine S. McMullen (Wentworth VR series, Two Sentence Horror Stories series). The film also features the acting talents of a bevy of lovely ladies, including Denise Gough (Wiedzmin 3: Dziki Gon video game 2015, The Kid Who Would Be King 2019), Eve Connolly (Into the Badlands series, Vikings series), Kelly Campbell (Mystic Nights of Tyr Na Nog series, Kingdom series), Isabelle Connolly (Krypton series, Vikings series), Ailbhe Cowley (Day Out short 2018, I AM PATRICK documentary 2020), Irene Kelleher (Spellbound short 2014, Vikings series), Charlotte Moore (Alfie 2004, The Audience 2013), Jane Herbert (The Screen Scripture 2016, The Drummer and the Keeper 2017), Zara Devlin (A Bump Along the Way 2019), Mallory Adams (Pattern: Response short 2009, Eleven Eleven 2018), Juliette Crosbie (Writing Home 2017, Rainbow Rangers series), little Eva Mullen, and more.
Great art often defies genre and elementary analysis, giving birth to something that is a unique experience for each viewer or listener. In this respect, The Other Lamb is no different from the works of Georgia O’Keeffe or Emily Dickinson. With truly divine cinematography from Michal Englert (In the Name of 2013, Body 2015) that emphasizes the natural beauty of Ireland, where the film was shot, this is a master-work of visual metaphor. Brought to life in the form of a Drama with slight Horror elements, the film is only slightly faster in pace and tension than 2015’s The VVitch: A New England Folktale, but with the visual splendor and rustic beauty of 2019’s Midsommar and 2017’s The Lodgers. (And, much like the aforementioned films, it should be noted that there are some disturbing themes that run through The Other Lamb, including implied incest and sexual abuse of women under the age of 18. Viewer discretion is heavily advised.)
Certainly tales of cults, particularly those led by alluring and charismatic men, are not rare, but The Other Lamb provides an exceptional experience for its viewers. Much of this is thanks to its careful attention to every single minor detail, though it would not be fair to dismiss its talented cast. While many of Shepherd’s wives and daughters are, for the most part, interchangeable, that does not keep the actresses portraying the roles from delivering exemplary performances. However, this story is very much about Cassidy’s Selah and Huisman’s Shepherd, with some serious support from Gough.
In the leading role, Cassidy is flawless as a beautiful young woman with brilliant blue eyes that only just begins to open those lenses to the world around her as she is told to expect her first menstrual cycle any day. Aware enough to understand that this will mean lying beneath Shepherd, pious enough to fear going against the leader of her flock, but intelligent enough to question her life among the wives and daughters, Selah is the proverbial black sheep, in that, she is the sole daughter to question her existence. She is not, however, the only woman in the flock to do so: enter Gough’s Sarah. With battle scars to show for her subservience to Shepherd, wife Sarah, “the broken thing,” is the outcast who provides the urgency for young Selah to make the important decisions about her future. Gough does this flawlessly, offering a haunting portrayal of a woman who is terrified to stay but even more frightened to go. Emphatically calm and eerily poised, Gough delivers a truly powerful performance.
At the center of this drama, Huisman’s Shepherd is a mysteriously alluring man. Stern with his flock but tender, too, he lacks the blatant charisma that we often see depicted in fictitious cult leaders. Huisman’s delivery is far more nuanced, a delicate dance of good and evil; so much so that, at times, we must rely on gossip from his wives and daughters as to his supposed dark side. For a film that is so heavily steeped in allegory, Huisman’s understated performance of the flat character is perfection, allowing each viewer to decide what to believe about his nature and intentions. It goes without saying that, in this respect, despite there only being one ram in every flock, this story is truly about the ewes.
Certainly, for some, The Other Lamb will be polarizing. With its languid pacing, abundant use of symbolism and metaphor, and delicately nuanced characters, this is not a film for everyone. For those that adore more sophisticated and artistic films such as the aforementioned The Witch, The Lodgers, or even The Handmaid’s Tale series (or novel), this is guaranteed to be a favorite. Flawlessly wrought with an impeccable attention to detail, as well as a stellar cast, the darkly original film is a visual dream, a modern fairy tale of identity, courage, and freedom. In love, Cryptic Rock gives The Other Lamb 5 of 5 stars.