Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Other Lamb: Not-So Pastoral

The Shepherd is better groomed than David Koresh and softer-spoken than Jim Jones, but they are all cut from the same cloth. The Shepherd also adds bigamist and implied incestuous overtones to his collective flock-keeping. He is obviously bad news, but he keeps his wives and daughters enthralled with his words—until one of them starts to have doubts in Malgorzata Szumowska’s The Other Lamb, which releases tomorrow on VOD.

Other Lamb
is the sort of film that will be particularly hard hit by the migration of theatrical releases to pure VOD, because the best things going for it—really the only things—are its dreamy vibe and hallucinatory visuals. This film would play better on a big screen in a darkened theater, but the narrative and overwrought drama are no great shakes, regardless of the distribution circumstances.

Selah didn’t join the Shepherd’s cult. She was born into it. She has only known life in his hippy commune, so she believes everything he tells her ardently—especially since she is his clear favorite. However, a series of strange observations and waking dreams plant her first seeds of doubts. They will start to germinate when her first menstruation forces her to spend time apart from the collective with the pariah wife.

All the visions and nightmares promise something heavy will eventually happen, but getting to that point is truly a feat of endurance. If you feel that your time spent self-quarantining is flying by too quickly than by all means watch this film. Of course, there are no surprises once the inevitable finally comes to pass. Basically, this film is made for gender-focused Social Justice Warriors who find the Handmaid’s Tale to be too subtle and ambiguous. The message here is pretty simplistic: men are bad and religion is even worse.
Raffey Cassidy plays Selah as a doe-eyed waif, without ever projecting any sense of the intuitive intelligence and resilient strength the pariah wife often assures her she has. Michiel Huisman certainly radiates plenty of malevolence as Shepherd, but none of the charisma he would need to keep his flock mesmerized by his will. Somehow, Denise Gough stands out favorably as Sarah, the “broken” wife, but it is rather baffling why she stays with the Shepherd’s flock (intellectually, we can assume he has crushed her sense of self and made her emotionally dependent on the cult that holds her in contempt, but that is us filling in the film’s blanks).

The timing for Other Lamb is terrible, but there is never really a good time for a pretentious film that falls flat. Blake Reigle’s One of Us was not exactly a great movie, but it had a similar plot and tone, while managing to be more watchable, because it leaned into the genre elements more. Not recommended, The Other Lamb releases tomorrow (4/3) on VOD.