Innocent Lamb, or a Lamb to Slaughter?

Lamb posterLamb is a small film that is co-written, directed by, and starring Ross Partridge (Secret in Their Eyes). Ross plays David Lamb, a man whose marriage is over due to his own self-destructive habits of sleeping with a co-worker he feels nothing for.  While he seeks to deal with this failed marriage, he finds his own estranged father dying on him, leaving him to pick up the pieces.  He is clearly a man on the brink, as he is seen living in cheap hotel rooms surrounded by boxes, while trying to keep up the allusion that he is still sneaking around on his wife while he is at home with her, when he calls his girlfriend to talk dirty to her.  He is a man looking for the allusion of control in the face of the reality that he is not in control.

Enter Tommie (Oona Laurence, Southpaw), an 11-year old girl whom David Lamb meets outside of a bakery.  Tommie lives with her deadbeat mom and her mom’s boyfriend who never keep track of her as they can’t be bothered to tear themselves away from the television long enough to parent.  When David meets Tommie, she is dressed like she is trying to be 18 while she attempts to bum cigarettes off of him, a stranger, at the urging of her friends.  David gives her the cigarette but also seeks to teach her a life lesson by faking a kidnapping of Tommie, with Tommie’s cooperation, to show her that her friends really don’t care about her and that they shouldn’t have encouraged her to go up to a stranger like she did…especially because he could be dangerous.

Ross Partridge gives a powerfully subtle, and rich performance that creates moments of pure fear on the part of the audience that his character may be heading down a very dark path with his intentions of Tommie.  Lamb continues to meet with Tommie, eventually convincing her to join him for a week at his late father’s home near the mountains to just get away from it all.  To convince her, and to keep her with him, even as she begins to be homesick and asks to go home, David must engage in a brutally passive-aggressive campaign with Tommie that involves subtle manipulation, and exercises of power over her.  Despite her desire to act older than she is due to her unfortunate street smarts, from being on her own all day and night, she is still a child, and is easily duped by this adult whom she has bonded with and even grown to trust.

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Lamb is a film that creates a uniquely creepy vibe and owns it throughout the rest of the film.  It is a fascinating look at the art of manipulation and should serve as a sobering reminder of how vulnerable our children truly are and why they need to be protected at all costs. Ross is able to push the audience to a point where your worst fears are going to be that David Lamb will begin a highly inappropriate relationship with this girl, whom he is manipulating.  He is able to keep the tension of this fear throughout the film, slowly and subtly raising the stakes with each conversation, and encounter, between he and Tommie, almost to the breaking point.

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In addition to putting this genuinely creepy relationship on display, Ross directs the audience to examine the nature of David Lamb as maybe being someone who truly has the best intentions of showing this young girl a part of the world he finds comfort in, despite being surrounded by the death and destruction he has experienced through his dad’s death and wife’s leaving him.  Is this the dark and subtle spiral of a deeply disturbing kidnapping? Or maybe we are the cynical ones reading something malevolent into the nature of his friendship with this young girl, while he is the sane one.  Maybe it is something much deeper. Is this a story about an innocent Lamb (as in David Lamb) seeking to find good and beauty in this life and pass it on to a young girl, or is he the one who is leading the proverbially “innocent lamb” to slaughter?