The Other Lamb
Raffey Cassidy, Michiel Huisman, Denise Gough
Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska (Mug, Elles) makes her English-language debut with this haunting story of a cult of women, headed by a male leader. Selah (Raffey Cassidy, Vox Lux, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is one of the youngest women in the group, all of whom are either daughters or wives to Shepherd (Michiel Huisman). Living far away from modern society, deep in the woods, they must strictly adhere to his teachings. However, when the outside world impinges on their commune, they are forced to begin an exodus to find ‘a new Eden’. This journey and the onset of puberty forces Selah to question Shepherd’s supremacy in what becomes a pitched battle of wills.
Playing somewhere between Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene and The Handmaid’s Tale, this is a beautifully shot parable of the way that patriarchal power operates, and the personal cost of dismantling it. Szumowska does wonders with the rural landscapes of Ireland and creates authentically chilling atmosphere, reminiscent of folk horror. With a recent explosion of work covering the trauma and mindset of cults (including Ari Aster’s Midsommar, Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy, Benson and Moorhouse’s The Endless and Wild, Wild Country), The Other Lamb distinguishes itself as a distaff entry into the field, privileging the stories of the women who follow rather than their leader. Fixing closely on the power exchange in the microcosm of the cult, The Other Lamb’s lessons extend into the wider context of our society.