The Other Lamb has been a festival success in various countries over the last 12 months, and I just happened to stumble across it by complete accident at October’s London Film Festival. Part of the official competition, I was compelled by the strong performances from an almost completely female cast.
Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska, it is her first English language film; but her roots in European cinema are clear to see in the cold stark landscape. The film is full of stillness, with tiny, slight movements becoming all important. She uses the power of her setting and the pain of nature to bring out the emotions in the cast and uses a series of premonitions to both warn the audience of what is to come and unsettle them in equal measure.
Selah has spent her entire life raised in an all female cult, led by the only man she has ever met, Shepherd. After the passing of her mother, she’s been raised by the other women in the cult, but as she starts to hit puberty, new feelings bring out questions, and even answers. The generic plot is something you may have seen before: creepy cult leader and his clueless lambs to the slaughter. But with The Other Lamb, writer C.S. McMullen (in their feature debut), is able to make it feel entirely new, different, and equally relatable. It touches on a spectrum of topics within the human conditions - growth, life, aging, womanhood, and loss. Not to mention first love, resentment, and anger.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The Other Lamb is a showcase for Raffey Cassidy’s pure acting power. She doesn’t waste a single muscle in her voice and is able to portray worlds of emotion just through her eyes. Cassidy’s performance in last year’s Vox Lux was outstanding, and her role as Selah only further proves that she is one to watch. Despite it being Cassidy’s film, the entire ensemble cast delivers brilliant performances. Everyone has brought their all, and while many of the cast are merely in the background, Szumowska has assembled a brilliant all female team of actresses that you could believe have lived together for all these years. Michiel Huisman as Shepherd is powerfully attractive and menacing in equal measure, and Denise Gough as the black sheep of the congregation adds a much needed sobriety to the film.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There is a subtle use of silence through the film, combined with the gentle sounds of nature, that only add to the cold, stark, and powerful atmosphere of the film.
The film plays with narrative structure and montage to create a striking visual palette. Flashbacks, premonitions, and forewarnings all play together with symbolism and mythology to create an overwhelmingly visual film. Very visual.
The Other Lamb is disturbing, mesmerizing, and engaging. It’s not a perfect film, but I was entranced, and five months later I do still catch myself thinking about it. I’m looking forward to seeking out more of Szumowska’s work, and I cannot wait to follow Raffey Cassidy as she navigates the next steps of her career.