The Other Lamb
by Hope Madden
The first step toward freedom is telling your own story.
Writer C.S. McMullen and director Malgorzata Szumowska tell this one really well. Between McMullen’s outrage and the macabre lyricism of Szumowska’s camera, The Other Lamb offers a dark, angry and satisfying coming-of-age tale.
Selah (Raffey Cassidy, Killing of a Sacred Deer, Vox Lux) has never known any life except that of Eden, the commune where she lives with the sisters, the wives, and the Sheperd (Michiel Huisman, The Invitation).
Szumowska doesn’t tell as much as she unveils: Selah’s defiant streak, Sheperd’s unspoken rules, what puberty can mean if you’re a good follower. She strings together a dreamlike series of visions that horrify on a primal level, the imagery giving the film the feel of gruesome poetry more than narrative.
Selah’s first period and the group’s migration to a new and more isolated Eden offer the tale some structure. Like many a horror film, The Other Lamb occupies itself with burgeoning womanhood, the end of innocence. Unlike most others in the genre, Szumowska’s film depicts this as a time of finding your own power.
The Other Lamb does not simply suggest you question authority. It demands that you do far more than that, and do it for your own good.
Selah’s emotional arc plays itself across Cassidy’s face, at first all eyes, piercing blue and eager. But restlessness and defiance outline every expression. Soon Selah’s painterly beauty gives way to the hardness of anger—a transformation Szumowska celebrates.