Following Mark Duplass on Twitter is never boring. It may get a bit uncomfortable at times (see here), but it is never boring. Early last year, he was raving about a small film coming out of Sundance called Lamb and ever since that tweet I have been waiting with much anticipation. Thankfully, when I finally was able to get my hands on it, I was not disappointed.
The film follows the story of David Lamb who meets a young girl, Tommie, in the parking lot of a strip mall after her friends dare her ask him for cigarettes. He suggests they play a prank on her friends by acting like he’s kidnapping her, scolds her for trusting him and takes her home. After this initial meeting, the two become close and eventually, Lamb suggests they take a trip to his cabin. Tommie agrees to go with him and they set off without anyone knowing.
This is where the film gets interesting. Interpretation of character motives becomes imperative as you try and figure out whether Lamb truly believes that he is helping Tommie or if he is actually kidnapping her. The film casts no judgments on the character’s decisions, making the task of deducing their motivation even harder, but it is clear that Tommie loves Lamb. As the film progresses, it slowly, subtly transitions to her viewpoint, making her affection for him more apparent.
Lamb is certainly one of the most daring films I have ever seen, tackling an extremely taboo subject matter with an angle that at times seems almost wrong. It challenges your expectations and forces you to put aside judgment so that you can be fully enveloped in the beautiful complexity of the film. In Lamb, you find that love and morality are not always clear cut concepts and to truly understand this film, you must be willing to accept uncomfortable conclusions.
Still, for all the narrative complexity of Lamb, the best part of the film is the performances by director, writer and star, Ross Partridge, and the extremely talented Oona Laurence. The amount of depth these two bring to their characters is incredible and their chemistry is palpable. Laurence is especially wonderful as the emotional center of the film and her performance in the last scene of the film is particularly heart-wrenching.
Besides the performances though, Lamb is made ever more mesmerizing by its score and its cinematography. The score, by Daniel Belardinelli, provides a soft, dark undercurrent for the film. The cinematography by Nathan Miller is brilliantly beautiful, but subtly so. In combination, these elements provide the beauty of the film that is so needed with such an uncomfortable subject matter.
While Lamb is by no means a perfect film (there is definitely some wonky dialogue here and there), it is still an incredible film due to its beauty and its emotional impact. It challenges you to truly empathize with its characters, even if their actions are questionable. Lamb is the perfect start to a promising 2016 and I can’t wait to see more from Ross Partridge in the future.