Lamb (2015)

lamb_2015_poster
Lamb (2015)
  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Ross Partridge
  • Cast: Ross Partridge, Oona Laurence, Jess Weixler

Storyline:

Lamb, based on the novel by Bonnie Nadzam, traces the self-discovery of David Lamb in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and takes Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness. The journey shakes them in ways neither expects.

One review

  • A richly rewarding film with a provocative central relationship, Lamb quickly establishes the fractured lives of its two main characters. David Lamb (Ross Partridge, who is also the film’s writer and director) is in the midst of an emotional maelstrom – his father has just passed, his marriage is falling apart, he may be losing his job, and he’s living out of a motel room.

    He takes comfort in an affair with his colleague Linny (Jess Weixler), who yearns for something more concrete but allows herself to be appeased by his empty promises. Who knows what’s going through his mind when eleven-year-old Tommie (Oona Laurence) clomps up to him in high heels and asks for a cigarette. Her older friends have dared her, she explains, and he’s intrigued enough to hand her a cigarette. Assessing her friends’ reaction, he makes a bold suggestion – let’s teach your so-called friends a lesson by pretending to kidnap you. Before she can utter a word, he has already grabbed her arm and whisked her away in his SUV. He drops her off near her apartment building and admonishes her, “You should know better. I’m not a bad guy, but I could have been.”

    “I’m not a bad guy, but I could have been.” His words colour everything that unfolds. For Tommie, whose parents can barely be bothered to tear their gazes away from the television when she’s around, David is someone who is both father figure and friend. Yet there’s something else at play, something they are both keenly aware of and find difficult to define. There’s a strong element of courtship in their early interactions – he offers to buy her lunch as an apology for the faux kidnapping, she offers to give him her e-mail. “Why? Are we gonna see each other again?” he asks. Indeed, they do though they worry about how inappropriate their relationship is. “Maybe this should be our last outing for a while,” he wonders. “Why? Because it’s weird?” she asks.

    Not too long after this, he proposes going away for a week with him to his father’s cabin in the Rockies. A secret trip in her secret life. Just the two of them, and they won’t tell anyone where they are. Tommie says yes, though he wants her to be certain of her decision. He leaves her alone in a hotel room and gives her money for cab fare – take the time to decide, he says, no hard feelings if she changes her mind. There’s something new and empowering in the way he treats her – like an equal and not as a child – and all throughout their road trip, Tommie and the audience are lulled by this solicitousness and consideration on his part. He wants to show her something of the world, to relieve her from her humdrum existence, he has all the best intentions, doesn’t he?

    Still… “I’m not a bad guy, but I could have been.” It’s difficult to ignore these words, which come to seem more and more of a warning. “I’m not a bad guy, but I could have been.” And he still could be. He has shown himself to be a liar and the lies continue to pile up, even if the lies are a necessary form of self-protection. More disturbing than his delusions, however, are his manipulations for they don’t appear to be manipulations. On the one hand, he encourages Tommie to reason out her doubts, to arrive at her own choices, and yet one can clearly see how smoothly he is pulling at the strings.

    Partridge the director adeptly manages the moral and emotional complexities of this often disturbing film. In many respects, David is the far trickier role and Partridge the actor succeeds in building a character that is charming, sympathetic and reprehensible. Laurence continues to be a remarkable performer, possessing a depth of perception and intelligence many actors twice her age would kill for.

    As the film can be read in multiple ways, the ending can strike one as deeply unsettling or touchingly bittersweet. The latter interpretation brings to mind films like Leon: The Professional and Lost in Translation, which both hinge on unconventional love stories where encounters may be brief, but their effect is everlasting.

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