The Other Lamb (Malgorzata Szumowska, 2019, Ireland/Belgium/USA)

The Other Lamb, Malgorzata Szumowska’s English-language debut, is a striking departure for the director. It is her first time adapting another writer’s screenplay - she has shared at least a co-writing credit on all features prior to this one. As far as I know, it is also her first foray into the genre space. While The Other Lamb is not a conventional horror film by any means, its story - of a woodland cult lead by a figure known only as the Shepherd - has echoes of horror classics like The Wicker Man. More recently it bears resemblance to Ari Aster’s Midsommar, though while that film focused on the cult as an external force, Szumowska’s film is much more focused on the inward psychological profile of a female member. 
That member - Selah - was born into the cult. Her mother was also a member. At the time we meet her, she is beginning to experience puberty. She begins having strange and disturbing visions that coincide with the blossoming of her sexuality, and she begins to perceive that Shepherd is not the benevolent figure he presents himself to be. The visions here have echoes of Antichrist, on which Szumowska served as a producer, and there is something reminiscent of von Trier in the whole proceedings. 
The film suffers from some of the shortcomings that have run through Szumowska’s previous work, including an emphasis on style over substance, and a lack of characterization. We have no convincing back stories on the women in the cult, and as a result their following the Shepherd is somehow unconvincing. The film also drags somewhat, even with a relatively brief 90-minute runtime. One gets the sense that the visuals came before the story here, but it is easy to overlook this fact as the visuals are so striking and beautiful.


6/10

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