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The Other Lamb review: Gorgeous new horror movie tackles cults in obvious ways


There’s at all times satisfaction in watching abhorrent characters get their due, however the journey resulting in their comeuppance is essential — it makes any catharsis extra satisfying, but it surely additionally offers context, and a degree to what’s taking place. Tales about cults led by males fashioning themselves as gods and abusing younger ladies are powerful to abdomen in fiction and in actuality, and the arthouse drama The Different Lamb is not any exception to that rule. Director Małgorzata Szumowska and cinematographer Michał Englert have crafted a stunning film that’s nonetheless troublesome to observe. Scenes of sexual abuse and assault are frequent, and the fixed concentrate on the struggling the movie’s ladies endure feels unwarranted in gentle of how skinny the story in the end is.

The cult on the heart of The Different Lamb is led by a person (Michiel Huisman) who types himself as “the Shepherd,” and the ladies who comply with him as his “flock.” He’s portrayed in Christ-like murals across the forest they name residence. They appear to be suspended out of time, because the Shepherd clothes in robes, and the “wives” and “daughters” (the feminine youngsters the Shepherd has fathered) are wearing purple and blue frocks, respectively. The skin world appears nonexistent, and the film appears to be set up to now — till a contemporary police automotive arrives on the property, and its passenger informs the Shepherd that he and his followers should discover a new residence. The journey to achieve one is arduous, bringing out the Shepherd’s much less godly character traits, and forcing his followers to reassess their state of affairs. Does he actually know the place he’s main them? Is his rising cruelty warranted?

The Shepherd (Michiel Huisman) surrounded by his flock.

Picture: IFC Midnight

These questions weigh closely on one of many daughters, Selah (Raffey Cassidy). She’s favored for her magnificence (the Shepherd tells her she reminds him of her mom, who supposedly died giving start to her) and her “purity,” as she hasn’t began menstruating but. Nonetheless, as she grows older — and the Shepherd takes a spouse simply barely older than she is — her affection for him wanes. That fracture grows wider because the group strikes and Selah grows nearer to Sarah (Denise Gough), one of many Shepherd’s wives whom he now refers to as a “damaged factor,” relegating her to the fringes of the group.

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Selah’s disillusionment is gradual. Because the movie begins, she’s reprimanded for an act of pettiness dedicated out of jealousy of the Shepherd’s favor, and she or he spends many of the early movie attempting to curry his favor. The gradual seep of uncertainty into her life is probably the most compelling thread Szumowska tugs at, as the potential for her liberation hangs within the steadiness. There’s a darker thread unraveling on the identical time, although, the seeming inevitability that Selah, too, will turn into a spouse, because the Shepherd’s predatory methods, whereas invisible to his flock, are clear to the viewers. He has a bunch of younger ladies fully dedicated to him, and the older wives be aware that his consideration is totally on his youthful wives.

Every scene with Selah and the Shepherd is one thing to actively dread, particularly as The Different Lamb doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s a easy story — considered one of ladies lastly banding collectively to attempt to overcome an abusive man — and Szumowska places all her chips on telling her story properly quite than discovering any deeper which means or resonance. She appears well-intentioned, however her movie’s simplicity makes the gratuitous, seemingly pointless abuse in The Different Lamb even tougher to abdomen. It’s clear from the outset that the Shepherd is intimate with all of his wives, because the prayers they recite each night time, thanking him for his “grace,” are clearly sexual in nature. Unease naturally permeates the movie; occasions unfold slowly, typically with cuts away to dreamy imagery. The acts of abuse — pictures of the Shepherd pawing at a member of his flock whereas each look immediately into the digicam — don’t add something in addition to shock worth.

A girl and man confront each other
A girl and man confront each other

Cassidy and Huisman in The Different Lamb.

Picture: IFC Midnight

There’s the same surface-level method to the movie’s racial dynamics, as the entire Shepherd’s wives are white, save one (performed by Esosa Ighodaro, and named solely within the credit as Leah), who by no means speaks besides throughout scenes of collective prayer or music. Within the latter case, she’s left to riff in juxtaposition with the opposite wives’ by-the-book singing. She comes off as a token character, plugged into the movie to make barely extra gospel music usable, and to maintain the solid from being all white.

But when there’s one factor to reward past the movie’s visuals, which boast a placing stillness and care with coloration, it’s Cassidy’s efficiency. Selah’s uncertainty manifests in more and more rebellious conduct, and flashes of what could also be goals, premonitions, or each. And Cassidy blends anger and confusion completely, rising virtually feral as her preconceived notions in regards to the Shepherd begin to dissolve.

Although The Different Lamb in the end affords extra for the eyes than meals for thought, it’s nonetheless skillfully made, and the scenes during which the ladies are allowed to easily take pleasure in one another’s firm, with out having to think about the Shepherd or the restrictions of the world they reside in, are fantastic. However they don’t final lengthy sufficient. This is able to-be story of feminine empowerment spends an excessive amount of time worrying about visuals quite than the story it’s telling, and it loses any sense of catharsis because of this.

The Different Lamb is now on VOD and digital platforms.

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