Review: The Other Lamb
There have been a lot of movies and TV shows recently about religious cults. One can assume this is a reaction to cultural trends. Since the #metoo movement, films (especially in the horror genre) have taken on patriarchal oppression against women. There have been highlights such as Jennifer Kent's searing The Nightingale. With several things exploring these topics, it is inevitable that some will start to feel like they are not breaking any new ground. Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska's beautifully shot The Other Lamb signals that change.
As visually striking this film is, its slow pace and rather thin exploration of male dominance and female resistance leave it as non-essential viewing. The screenplay by Catherine S. McMullen doesn't have a strong message. The film boils down to a warning that lone-male cult leaders are bad news. Still, the film does have some strong things going for it.
Raffey Cassidy's performance as teenager Selah is always compelling. Selah is one of "the Shepherd's" favorite followers. He is attracted to her purity, particularly that she has not begun to menstrate. He inner struggle is that she indeed has and is trying to keep it unknown. Selah begin to question the Shepherd (Michiel Huisman) when law enforcement shows up and kicks them off their land. They must find a new Eden and thus begin a journey on foot. During this, Selah learns more about the Shepherd that begins to put her at odds with him and undermines the entire following. During all of this, Cassidy sells the inner life of Selah, who's world is beginning to come into clear view.
There are several dreamlike scenes and broken editing that makes The Other Lamb veer towards parable over reality. These moments are when the film is at its best. However, as the film goes on it is easy to feel their emptiness given that the story doesn't have much to say. This kind of pulls the rug out from any punch that the more horroresque moments could have. There is a lot of meandering and staring that doesn't add up to anything as powerful as it could. There is a lack of visceral shock that could have given the film more impact. Still, a shout out to cinematographer Michal Englert for creating some striking images.