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There is an argument in circles of cinephiles that a movie can’t be great, simply because it looks good. I am on the team that says if a movie looks gorgeous, it is already halfway there. Cinematography is the art part in cinema. It’s a moving painting when it is done right. An image can lock into our minds like a cemented fence. Obviously this is a case by case basis, but The Other Lamb is gorgeous, possibly one of the best looking films of 2020. It also has a fascinating story, about a young women named Selah (Raffey Cassidy- The Killing of a Sacred Deer), born into a cult of twenty women, being led by one single man, who goes by the name of Shepherd (Michiel Huisman- Game of Thrones). They are divided into wives and children, the wives in red, the children in blue, and as Selah begins to get older, she begins to awake to the madness that she is living in. The Other Lamb is a dreamlike, psychologically twisted film, where the lion will soon be taken over by his flock of lambs.

The opening sequence of The Other Lamb is a wandering walk in the woods, isolated, quiet, and we eventually arrive to what look like a few mobile homes. Outside, there are women singing, sewing, and butchering sheep for the mid-day meal. All of these women are in the ranges of sixteen to fifty, a few have given birth to their own daughters, each with beautiful braided hair, women of all colors, shapes, and they follow Shepherd (Huisman). He is a Christ-like figure, or at least he believes he is, and therefore, so does his faithful congregation. Raffey is one of the younger women of the group, but as she grows older, approaching her first period, her doubts grow. She sees the hold these strict rules of the cult have on the other women and finds solace in one of the elder members Sarah (Denise Gough), who enlightens her to who this man actually is on the inside.

The subject matter of cults is an entire sub-genre of the horror category, so it is important to get these aspects right. Midsommar was a film that changed the way the cult narrative has been done, only because Ari Aster built his own entire village, ripe with costumes, and houses set up to be burned down. The Other Lamb may not go that far, but what director Malgorzata Szumowska does is use the environment, shooting in gorgeous locations of Ireland, and creating immaculate imagery with cinematographer Michal Englert. After the setting creates the tone, the script from C.S. McMullen delivers on creating the authenticity of a cult working, plus there is an intense chemistry between Cassidy and Huisman. The entire film rests on their performances. Huisman is good looking to have earned his followers, while slowly revealing his characters self doubt, while Raffey has a look that is timid and innocent, making her character arch authentic.

It’s wrong to giveaway scenes from a film such as The Other Lamb, but there is a sequence that I will remember for a long time. Selah falls asleep on a hill, overlooking a vast canyon, and awakes to a creature bleeding on the ground. It’s not a necessarily scary moment, as it is shocking, but as I didn’t, I don’t think audiences will be able to forget. It is Szumowska‘s unique ability to combine the elegant visuals with a nasty darkness, creating a sense of dread. That is what makes The Other Lamb special. You wonder how a man could control this many women at once and yet we know a situation like this only takes one spark to blow it up.

The Other Lamb is gorgeous, a haunting experience, and a breakout piece of cinema from Szumowska. It is a dissection of the powers of religion, the patriarchy, and the way that men want to control everything about women. The Other Lamb is also a perfect metaphor for a dying point of view from men of the past. We may think that we can dictate the way a human lives, but we will always be outnumbered, and someday the sheep are going to overpower that one tiny old ram.


Written by: Leo Brady

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