When I turned on Lamb I thought I knew what I was in store for. I thought it was going to be the story of an unusual and unconventional friendship forming between a young girl named Tommie (Oona Laurence) and an older man David (Ross Partridge), who’s having some identity issues and suffering something like a midlife crisis. At least that’s how the movie was sold.
In actuality, though, it’s much more nuanced and often uncomfortable than it was originally presented, but not in the way you might fear or assume given the character pairing. There was always the fear that this was going to turn into a drama about child abuse or that in some other manner David’s intentions toward Tommie were creepy and perverse.
But the movie’s not that cut and dried. First off, David is a much more complex character than what was presented in the campaign. His motivations are constantly in question because his reality is constantly in motion. He gives a new story and reality to everyone in his life in whatever situation he finds himself. He’s just trying to get to the next moment. If he can lie himself out of this situation he’ll figure out how to get out of whatever comes next. That just gets worse as the story goes on and creates a sense of unease in the viewer because we’re given a dozen different scenarios with little to no sense which one is true. We don’t know the foundation his character is built on other than he’s a serial liar.
That unease creates a lot of the tension in his actions toward Tommie. We don’t know if he’s actually a good guy who wants to give a little girl a special time out in the country (even though it’s obviously illegal) or if he has something more sinister in mind. To be clear, at no point does he actually do anything physically abusive to her, though he’s mean in other ways as he asks her to hide, to lie and otherwise help support his constantly shifting stories.
All of that was mostly missing from the campaign, but it’s understandable why. There were a few hints here and there that things were not on the up and up regarding David but not to the extent that it showed it was going to frame the entire story, particularly the second half.
Lamb is at times an uncomfortable watch. That’s largely because you’re constantly waiting for the pervert shoe to drop and for the story to take what might be called a more traditional turn. But it keeps drawing you back in as you try to figure out David’s motivations and marvel at how Tommie keeps herself strong through all of it. The ending isn’t great as there are some turns that come out of relatively nowhere. It’s still a recommended watch, though.