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Lamb - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

If there is a line that one can avoid crossing while still going too far, writer-director Ross Partridge seems to have found it. He also stars as David (or Gary, depending on who you talk to) in Lamb, which tells the increasingly unsettling story of a 47-year-old man who has basically kidnapped an 11-year-old girl named Tommie (a very capable Oona Laurence).

The dubious trick that Partridge pulls off here is in the fact that David never overtly molests the girl. Much of the movie is spent wondering if he might. It becomes increasingly clear that he probably wants to. Both of them ultimately see their relationship as some kind of grand, romantic love story. Partridge's telling of the story doesn't seem to expect us to see the relationship the same way, but there's something unseemly about being made to witness it nonetheless.

Worst of all -- or most the most interesting part, maybe -- is that David convinces Tommie that she is not only complicit in his entire plan, but that she made the choice herself. He takes her to a hotel, leaves for an hour. He's left her cab fare and said she can take a cab home if she wants, or she can go with him to his late father's cabin a couple days drive away. They'll go away for a week and he'll bring her back.

Tommie doesn't have much of a home to miss, and David pays her far more attention than her mother and her mother's boyfriend do. We only see them in a single scene, which isn't really enough truly to sketch out how neglectful they are. They never take their eyes off the television as they talk to Tommie after she comes home late. The fact that she's been out later than usual barely registers. She's been out with David, who took her to get some dinner as an apology. To Tommie, though, David is Gary.

Tommie and Gary first meet in a parking lot. Tommie is dared by some crappy friends to go up to him and ask for a cigarette. Gary suggests they teach her friends a lesson by pretending he's kidnapping her. He goes for the plan a little more quickly than Tommie has time to consider it, and it's a little scary. Gary feels bad. Gary's behavior soon enough becomes a patter eerily reminiscent of abusers, who do harm and then beg for forgiveness.

The thing is, Gary never beats Tommie, or touches her with clear inappropriateness. It just becomes evident over time that he would like to. Lamb plays like a seriously bent love story, with a boy and a girl falling for each other, but in very different ways. The boy just happens to be way too old.

Is there anything truly enriching about telling a story like this? That's very much open for debate, which is to Partridge's credit. The film's title makes sense in a sadly ironic way; apparently Gary/David's last time is actually Lamb, according to the credits. I don't recall anyone ever saying it, or seeing a name on his desk during a brief work scene. But maybe I missed it.

The vast majority of the movie features just Partridge and Oona Laurence, but there are occasional supporting characters. A neighboring farmer near the cabin David takes Tommie to. David's girlfriend, who serves as an effective wrench in his rando plans. There's an emotional goodbye between Tommy and Gary that in any other movie might turn the story into a tearjerker. I suppose this movie could be seen as a test: if you feel bad for David and cry for him, you need to get your head checked.

Lamb is the kind of movie that will intrigue some and disgust others. For me it did both. It challenges in a unique way, which was what I liked about it.

Ross Partridge has increasingly unsettling designs on Oona Laurence in LAMB.

Overall: B+
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