Tag Archives: based on novel

IN THE TALL GRASS: A Netflix Release

IN THE TALL GRASS. Country, Canada. Director: Vincenzo Natali. Screenwriter: Vincenzo Natali, based on the novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill. Cast: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie, Jr. Harrison Gilbertson, Rachel Wilson. Runtime: 101 minuets. Release Date: October 4, 2019. On Netflix.

Mostly Indies Rating: C

With so much material on his hands it’s more often than not that a writer of the stature of King will in some ways repeat himself thematically, if not do outright re-writes of previous works. His novella In the Tall Grass, co-written with his son Joe Hill, seems to suggest yet another incursion into cult horror in the middle of nowhere.

From its opening sequence the film’s premise follows the same as the one in Children of the Corn in both story and original movie with the sole exception that while that one consisted of a forgotten little place overrun by children who worship some god of the underworld, this time, there are no people around but a strange expanse of impossibly tall grass in which a strange rock, possibly the remnants of a meteorite, stands still but gleams in malevolent energy eager to meet the unsuspecting for a little fun in blood sacrifice.

The unsuspecting are a set of two families. The first, a brother and sister duo, Cal and Becky (Avery Whitted and Laysla De Oliveira), who stop while on the way to San Diego because Becky, who is pregnant and needs to relieve herself, has just heard the cries of a boy lost in the middle of the tall grass. Against her better judgement, and because she also overhears what seems to be the boys mother (Rachel Wilson) telling the boy to not to call anyone in, she and Cal set into the grass to locate the boy, and soon realize that time and distance seems to be playing tricks on them. What seemed to be a few feet now seems to have stretched farther out, and soon, both she and Cal are hopelessly lost in this never ending sea of green. However, the movie doesn’t limit itself to people lost within grass: soon Becky encounters Ross (Patrick Wilson), who’s also searching for his family, while Cal meets the boy, Tobin (Will Bule, Jr., a young actor with a striking resemblance to Elijah Wood at the start of his career some 20 years ago). Tobin at first seems a bit shifty. Remember, this is the Stephen King universe. Kids in his stories can be either preternaturally self-reliant and thus, trustworthy, or basically the Devil himself and must be avoided at all costs. Tobin provides some insight into what might be happening behind the plates of grass, which then cranks the story up a notch into weirdness. It all comes to a head when Becky’s boyfriend Travis (Harrison Gilbertson) also finds his way into the endless meadows as he searches for her. Eventually, all the characters converge into one somewhat open area, and Ross reveals he’s not the nice man he once may have been before he entered the grassy field. Time bends, becomes elastic, and then all hell breaks loose once the power behind the stone jutting from the ground takes its hold on the hapless cast.

For the most, In the Tall Grass is pretty effective in establishing a streamlined version of common King tropes. You will have tragic, subservient wives meeting gruesome ends. You’ll have the plucky heroine who tries her best to manage her way into the nightmare she’s literally walked into. You have your couple of untrustworthy characters who seem to be prey to a larger power — in Cal, you have the brother who loves his sister a bit too much, and in Ross, the archetypical father-villain who in Patrick Wilson finds the perfect actor as a handsome man with the winning smile and a glint of crazy just behind the eyes. Some of the inclusion of multiple timelines seem to exist only in an arbitrary fashion, but if you don’t care about too much logic you should be able to enjoy the premise well. Where the story’s thin premise buckles at the seams is when it presents the creatures haunting the field, and the curious drawings on the rock. It’s a common trop In King’s work, to show the monster in the closet; on cinema, however, less is always more, and omitting this detail from the story would have made it a bit more chilling. As it stands, this is an above average piece of work, with handsome cinematography and solid acting, but not a tremendously compelling work of horror.

THE GOLDFINCH examines grief and loss through the thread of a bird caught in canvas.

THE GOLDFINCH. Country: USA. Director: John Crowley. Screenwriter: Peter Straughan. Based on the Pulitzer Prize novel by Donna Tartt. Cast: Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wolfhard, Aneurin Barnard, Willa Fitzgerald, Ashleigh Cummings, Dennis O’Hare. Language: English, Ukrainian, Danish, French. Released: September 13, 2019. Runtime, 150 minutes.

Mostly Indies rating: C+

Right on the heels of having watched It, Chapter Two, comes the adaptation of yet another massive novel, Donna Tartt’s polarizing novel The Goldfinch, a piece of work that has been labeled as both the best and the worst thing that has happened to the English language as of late. So its not a shock that a book that would engender such sentiment in the literary world would also stir some equally difficult feelings once its conversion to cinema was made a reality. Of course, that is exactly what happened, with the first reviews arriving right on cue with not much good to say about the movie, noting its richness of visuals, but lack of a central heart, its length, its shallow depiction of grief, uneven acting on behalf of some of its cast, and the choppy time jumps in which we begin at the end and go back only to do so over and over again. I for one did not see anything wrong with the time-jumps; somehow, I felt at ease with the technique. What probably helped me ease into the “Dickensian” story (yes, that too has littered one too many reviews of this movie; I won’t give it that comparison, sorry) was that I knew next to nothing about it. I haven’t read the book and since have begun it. Like 2018s The Wife, I leapt to cinemas solely on the basis of a) the trailer and b) Glenn Close and boy, was I stunned to see not only a performance with a capital P, but a lean story that opened itself up, revealing layers and layers of hurt, betrayals, sacrifice, and selfless love that would have been better off in a more deserving man. [The book, while good, is actually less compelling.] Anyway, so I went to see The Goldfinch and I have to say, it is a handsome, well-told story of a boy facing unimaginable loss and having to come through using only his wits and the one element glueing himself to the ground: the 1654 Fabritius painting of a goldfinch, captive in time and space on canvas. To see his eventual growth and incursion into the underbelly of society while haunted for the entirety of it, almost like an outsider looking into a car crash in slow motion, is sad enough as it is, and both actors — Oakes Fegley and the baby-faced Ansel Elgort carry the story more or less successfully. However, let me say, despite that I enjoyed The Goldfinch, I never felt that the story itself was, however, too compelling: perhaps there was a true lack of mystery to it nd not much angst, or emotional highs and lows, and holding the audience rapt for two and a half hours only to reveal its cards at the very end, while it is fitting, comes off as a bit underwhelming when much of the events are somewhat muted and not too interesting. If at all, seeing solid actors try their best (although Sarah Paulson does a massive faux pas in a scene when she gets so emotional over a tragic loss that it takes her into another movie entirely, considering how bitchy her character has been, but I’m still okay with that) is all that one can ask of a movie adaptation of a book. It could have been worse, and no, this is not even close to the triumphant disaster that was The Bonfire of the Vanities — that was just gross negligence to bring any coherence to a satire. The Goldfinch is a well told yarn that should he a self-contained miniseries. It is, not, by any means, Dickensian. Let’s just say, it’s Dickens-lite for the novice. There are many of these novels around with stock characters you’ve seen in many other movies and plot developments that you can predict in your sleep. Does it deliver? Yes, Is it solid? Yes? Now, will you remember this tomorrow?

No.

it: chapter two

IT: CHAPTER TWO. Country: USA / Canada. Director: Andy Muschietti. Screenwriter: Gary Dauberman. Based on the novel by Stephen King. Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgard, Jasden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Nicholas Hamilton, Javier Botet, Xavier Dolan, Taylor Frey, Molly Atkinson, Joan Gregson, Stephen Bogaert. Language: English. Release date: September 6, 2019. Runtime: 170 minutes.

Mostly Indies rating: A–

Well, it’s here, it stormed into the box office and the story is told. Stephen King can rest knowing that even when the movie version of his much-beloved (and massive) 1986 novel “It” may never see a sufficiently dark and terrifying version without some significant alteration of the source of the horror, it goes without saying that at least the film version comes out swinging.

Truth be told, it is never an easy task to adapt a Stephen King novel. Much of the final story in It, for example, takes place in the astral plane and has ties to his Dark Tower macroverse, that to depict that one lengthy sequence would be next to impossible. Also, to its detriment, how scary can a clown truly be to kids raised on social media, YouTube, and a million other apps that can be conduits for the real horror: child predators? I’m going to have to say that in a way, It the movie is less scary this time, geared to hardcore Stephen King fans who have been reading him since Carrie, Salem’s Lot, and The Shining (the latter two who have yet to receive a truly gripping adaptation), but still, a compulsive watch.

So here we are, not quite back where we left off (although the first sequence, with the young Beverly (Sophia Lillis) apparently underwater, in a scene that recalls the moment she went into the deadlights — which thankfully get much more screen time here. Flash forward to today, 27 years later, when Adrian Mellon (Xavier Dolan) gets the extremely savage end of homophobia and meets an indescribable end at the hands of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), who’s come out from the dark and is, let’s say, “hangry” with a chip on his shoulder. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), who’s since been devoted to tracking Pennywise’s every move before and after their apparent first defeat (and who seems certifiably bonkers; trauma has a way of clinging onto you well after the horror is over), now has to deliver the stomach-churning phone call to his six other childhood friends, not knowing if they will even respond or take his call. They do, in an excellent montage, the adult Losers are introduced with the barest of backstories presented. Bill (James McAvoy) is a successful horror novel writer who’s books end badly. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is an abused housewife. Ben. (Jay Ryan) is a successful executive. Richie (Bill Hader, in a standout performance, mind you), is a stand-up comic going through a hard time. Eddie (James Ransone) is a limo driver. And finally, Stan (Andy Bean), who takes the call the hardest.

With the knowledge that It, the creature they once defeated, has returned, the remaining members of the Losers Club reunite in Derry. As it tends to happen, memories, long since repressed and buried, start to resurface, and with that, the ancient traumas, Of course, the question arises, why bother? They’re grown adults, what could they possibly be doing back in the town where they escaped from? Isn’t that what everyone does? Beverly, however, seen in the first frame of the movie, delivers the news: while under the deadlights, she saw them all dead. They have to go back, destroy the past, to be rid of it once and for all, and for them, that means performing the fated Ritual of Chud.

A huge chunk of the movie, from now on, becomes the six of them (well, really five; Mike has been here all along) walking through town, trying to pick up elements from their haunted past, in order to reunite later on. Of all of the solo scenes, Beverly’s was the one that stood out the most simply because her horror — which Pennywise in the novel manipulated) — is too real to ignore. When Pennywise appears to her in the body and shape of her father (Stephen Bogaert), without a dime of prosthetics, it’s more frightening than any of his disguises, which the movie curiously doesn’t use to its advantage. Another scene, this time not involving any one of the main cast members but a little girl who has a mole on her face, is truly terrifying because of its sparseness of special effects and Pennywise’s distorted maw of anticipation.

Overall, It is a solid piece of work that seen as a whole alongside the first movie will reveal a director who understands childhood fears and the genre, but also, reveal flaws in King’s own narrative. It is no secret that King nowadays, free of any editing constraints, has made a habit of producing extremely long works of fiction that go on and on for pages, chapters, even entire sections, without advancing the plot, The motive is to bring forward not just backstory, but a credible universe for people to see where his characters, good, bad, major, and even minor, are coming from. That in the literary world is okay — eventually you realize you will get to where the “meat” of the story is. However when translating into cinema, it just does not work. A lengthy scene where Bill rediscovers his old bike serves one self-indulgent pat-in-the-back moment. It is for fans only. Towards the end we are given a double dose of a similar scene from the first when Bill first encountered Pennywise in the flooded basement and near the end when the Losers go into the sewers. A little editing could have worked.

Also, and I’m just realizing it now: absent from both movies is Derry itself. Derry is supposed to be a haunted small town. Pennywise, a creature who defies explanation and whose presence alone could drive a person insane within seconds, feeds on the town’s residents equally, magnifying their adult prejudices and petty motives until they reach criminal levels (hence, the murder of Adrian Mellon) while still feeding on children. Derry as a character is corruption itself, a tainted place that offers no solace, no comfort, and the nagging feeling that some invisible, omnipresent evil is over them, literally playing them against each other like a puppet master. [It is a theme King started in Salem’s Lot and would revisit again in The Stand and Needful Things.] It’s a crying shame that this wasn’t woven into the fabric of the narrative except for the very first portion of the 2017 movie. It would have made the entire setting even more disturbing for the adults who come back, making their return to trauma even more horrible to stomach.

And lastly, presenting Pennywise continually as a clown eventually wears itself thin. In the book, he (it) was anything: a constant shapeshifter who was out for revenge against the “others” who had maimed it. At least, the battle of wills is done in a striking, clever, and even poignant way, something I would not have seen coming. So, for all its missteps, which even involve the use of CGI to make some of the kids look younger than they do and some awful use of Javier Botet as a bouncing horror that threatens Jessica Chastain, It delivers, does not include room for a potential sequel, and is now, over.

55TH NYFF: MADAME HYDE

MADAME HYDE

France
Director: Serge Bozon
Runtime: 91 minutes
Language: French

Mostlyindies’ grading: A–

I doubt that Isabelle Huppert will ever repeat the same kind of powerhouse performance like the one she turned in a year ago in Paul Verhoeven’s rape-comedy-mystery Elle (a movie that was one of my top five of last year). That picture gave Huppert a role actresses unafraid to push the boundaries of their own selves would die for: a woman who, despite having gone through a horrific assault, still managed to come out on top and assert her dominance in the most unusual way possible. She returns to the 55th New York Film Festival with a completely different performance altogether.

In Serge Bozon’s newest film, a novel approach to the Robert Louis Stevenson horror novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Huppert plays Mme. Gequil, a woman that is basically living in abject fear (of what, we don’t know). Her home life is a quiet shambles as her husband (Jose Garcia) treats her with a certain condescension while he focuses on his composing. Her school life fares no better as students openly dismiss and mock her while she teaches and a colleague (Romain Duris), decked in outfits that resemble rejects from Miami Vice) basically finds any way to diminish her. One night, while working in her lab to prepare materials for her next class she gets struck by an enormous power surge caused by a lightning storm. Soon after, she’s showing signs of not being all there . . . displaying a ravenous appetite (until then she would secretly deliver half her food to neighboring dogs), a sudden desire for sex with her husband . . . and walks at night, where, glowing, she sets things on fire.

She also takes an approach to a disabled student, Malik, and by nurture alone she cracks the shell that Malik up until then had kept intact, turning him into her most prized student. Problems arise when the other part of her, the one that acts out at night, starts to manifest its own presence. It’s only time before things will get slightly out of hand. Will Mme. Gequil be able to control the Mme. Hyde she is slowly morphing into?

Huppert, as usual, delivers strong acting in a part that requires her to be basically two different personalities. For the most part Madame Hyde is fairly comedic — a class project based on the Faraday Cage serves as a perfect tool to enact a certain revenge filled with a restrained “fuck you” approach. It’s in the final act when Mme Gequi’s alter ego takes over, that Huppert sinks into what she does best, which is finding the pathos and tragedy within.

For lovers of Huppert, seek her out in Joachim Trier’s Louder than Bombs, Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love, Bozon’s previous Tip-Top, Francois Ozon’s 8 Femmes, Mia Hansen-Love’s Things to Come, Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, and Claude Chabrol’s Violette.

Madame Hyde has no known US Premiere date, but will premiere in France March 28, 2018.






IT

IT

USA / Canada
Director: Andy Muschietti
Runtime: 135 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies’ grading:

I’ll have to admit; I did not have much hopes for this adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel of childhood fears because let’s face it, most movies adapted from King’s novels or short stories wind up being complete messes, or at least, much lesser than the sum of their parts. As a matter of fact, out of King’s enormous output of what seems to be about a novel or two a year (and mind you, for his novels keep getting fatter and fatter and more verbose by the second), sometimes one or two make it to above average, or simply good, but would you remember it come tomorrow? Possibly not. Would it scare you as much as his books? Nope.

However, there is always that one movie that comes alive like Pennywise feeding cycles. First it was Carrie, but it had Brian de Palma, a master of suspense in the vein of Hitchcock who tacked on an ending that wasn’t in the original but virtually created the Final Scare that works today just as it did in 1976. Kubrick’s version of The Shining is still considered a controversial good movie due to the fact that nowhere in the movie is the essence of the novel; the bare bones of the story are there, sure, but essentially, this is Kubrick’s imagination of what would have been his own horror movie, and it is one long, trip down a long corridor where . . . well, You know.

And on, and so forth, the 80s brought about one movie based on a Stephen King novel or short story compilation, Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone is horror at its coldest, Creepshow had that cockroach episode that on its own made me want to seal up my place over and over again and drench it with bug repellent. Christine did zero for me; it was a silly movie adapted from an insane novel that along with Tommy-knockers, seem to have been produced on a drug trip. One had to wait until 1990 to see another psychological horror novel come to chilling life in Misery. That movie made Kathy Bates; it won her the Oscar — a feat still unmatched since horror movies (and performances such as hers) don’t glean awards. It’s another example of the movie being better and more compact than the novel, which had a somewhat anticlimactic end, a thing King has a tendency to do now, which is what I think his way of saying, “Sometimes you just don’t get that happy ending.”

For several years I’d been reading the hype leading to the making of It, and I just didn’t think much of it until I began seeing teaser trailers, pictures of the new Pennywise. Reader, I have to say, when I walked into the theater I had less than average expectations. I thought, well, there goes another two hours of my life in a movie that even with today’s technology just can’t quite capture the spirit of such a rich and rewarding coming of age book.

How mistaken I was!

From the second the movie opens, I can’t explain it: it felt like something magical was happening. The death of Georgie Denbrough is captured in its own time capsule, the camera tracking every movement as he runs after his paper boat (that older brother Bill made for him). It is, to say the least, the slow, progressive awakening of the unnamed thing that has been lurking under the city and within its fabric for ages untold. I was perhaps slightly disappointed that, like in King’s novel, the boat didn’t make its reappearance after Georgie had been killed, but what I wasn’t prepared for was that it would, and in a way I could not have imagined.

That, in a nutshell, is the experience I had while watching It: a movie that features no adults, but only kids in a town that seems to move on in a daze even as tragedies as horrific as Georgie’s take place. We get introduced to the seven major characters — extremely well defined and acted — and see what haunts them the most, and how events stemming from their ferocious, relentless bullying bring them together in shared fear for what they know and don’t know, and the friendship that blossoms as if they’d known each other for ages. We also get sight of the bullies, each of them just as horrifying as the monster in the sewers of Derry, always in wait for a chance to exact their own insecurities (enforced by their own hateful parents) on these otherwise non-violent kids.

We also get to see who, or what, is doing the haunting and oh, my God, does Skarsgaard not disappoint. I know that Tim Curry was as freaky and frightening as they come in the made-for-TV miniseries, and you would think that the movie would perhaps shy away from showing Pennywise in his clown form and remain only focused on what form of fear It appears to the kids. I’ve never seen a clown this completely disorienting, terrifying, and plain paralyzing, as this one. There is not a second when it’s not clear that everything about Pennywise suggest something so completely evil it’s almost unmentionable. That It only appears to the kids (and uses its powers to influence the bullies and the adults in town) makes for a greater adversary, and we move from scene after scene of terrible things happening to kids to more terrible things happening to kids with relentless speed. It is a deadly foe to even mess with, as the children learn in a scene involving a projector camera or going into the infamous house on Neibolt Street, but the seven children at the center of the movie have made a decision to, understanding what it is or not, to destroy it, and hopefully emerge unscathed.

Horror has always been a way to explore themes that otherwise would make for a dull or violent drama. All of the fears that these kids have is as credible as reality. Because the timeline of It has now moved to 1989, the fears are less drive in theater and more grounded in the mind and the heart. In Beverly Marsh’s case, her fear is centered on her awful dysfunctional father and her twisted relationship with him. In a way, clown aside, this is the story of kids. Good or bad, perhaps with the exception of the minor but well defined monstrous character of Patrick Hockstetter, all of the kids are victims of some form of neglect from their home and the world around them. All of them have witnessed horrific sights aside from what lack they experience at home. Somehow, horror has made them come together to face their own fears and move on into the next phase of their lives and the movie soars with wonderful moments of great beauty and earthy humor before sinking into that otherworldly place that is underground Derry, where It lives.

Reader, if you can believe this, I walked out of the theater in tears. Never has a horror movie left me in a state of near bliss and hopefulness. If this is what Chapter one can bring, I can only imagine what Chapter two will do two years from now. From what I read, it will get very, very dark.  And I can’t wait.






ON DEMAND: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

 

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

5/5

Just when you thought the zombie apocalypse was all but dead Colm McCarthy appears with a fresh different approach even when it still includes familiar situations typical of the genre. His film version of the Mike Carey novel of the same name comes to vivid life under the eyes of a little girl names Melanie (Sennia Nanua).

Through the eyes of Melanie we get to see the world around her. It’s a grim world — her room little more than a makeshift cell where she’s kept locked in. Every morning she gets the rude awakening in literal form — guards with guns come in, truss her up in a wheelchair, place a mask over her face, and lead her to class where she and other children learn under the tutelage of Miss Perrineau (Gemma Arterton). Perrineau is the only adult whom Melanie relates to and who doesn’t see her as a freak of nature (or a ‘hungry’, as the zombies are referred to here), but an act of affection, caught by Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), reveals just how dangerous these children are. Parks approaches one of the kids with his naked arm extended out and places it right in front of the boy’s face. In seconds the boy becomes a twisting, writhing form straining against his straps, snapping his teeth like a feral animal.

The children — and Melanie included — are the second generation of people born after the zombie apocalypse that practically destroyed humanity, and a later explanation by Caldwell reveals just how gruesome their births were. While infected, they still exhibit normal human behavior, and Melanie is the smartest of them all, acutely aware of everything around her, Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close), a scientist in charge of the compound, has discovered that the origin of the virus that took over society is bacterial in nature; the bacteria hijacks the brain and reduces the person into a raving animal in order to propagate itself. Caldwell is searching for a cure for the virus, and has settled on Melanie as her next experiment due to her intelligence.

Just as Caldwell is about to start her macabre experiment, pandemonium breaks loose when hungries break through and invade the compound in a stunning, expertly choreographed sequence. Caldwell, Perrineau, Parks, a few other guards escort Melanie out of the now ruined compound into the unknown as they attempt to find a secure location where to find refuge and for Caldwell to further her studies. Escorting Melanie doesn’t come easy; the girl is still capable of taking them out in seconds if they drop their guard, so they keep her strapped to the top of a truck. Moving into London they find a city in ruins, but the most surreal imagery comes from the group silently navigating on foot through a horde of frozen hungries while trying to avoid even the slightest detection: a sound, a smell could trigger these apparently sentient beings into a frenzy.

The zombie genre in Mike Carey’s novel continues to evolve, even when it presents familiar scenarios of people in danger, tenuous alliances being formed, self-serving egos, and third-act revelations that ever-so-subtly place the entire concept on its head by cleverly linking it to a reverse Invasion of the Body Snatchers. With an extraordinary lead as Melanie, the entire story takes on another dimension found in some of the short segments of World War Z (the book). The Girl With All the Gifts doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it’s deeply atmospheric, reasonably well-acted, and one of the better entries in quite some time ever since The Walking Dead made the whole thing mainstream.

If you have DirecTV, you can watch The Girl With All the Gifts through their OnDemand platform — it’s been available since late January — and makes its official release in theaters and VOD February 24th.






LAMB

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

Once in a while there will be a film I come across that defies explanation and makes me wonder just what was the director and writer thinking about when he or they decided that making a movie so unsettling and queasy would be a good thing. A prime example is The Human Centipede (and whose sequels I will not watch; I have better things to do than to sit down and endure that kind of debasement). That story everyone knows, and while on the plus side it’s not a badly made movie — at a visual level there are sequences of great dread and beauty, often in the same frame — it’s what the energy coming through from that is attempting to communicate to me. Not that I have an issue with horror movies going that extra mile, but . . . well, if you haven’t seen it, you need to, and then go outside and take a fresh breath of air.

Lamb came out early this year and played in one theatre, one week (maybe two), and I missed it. I wanted to go see it but something held me back. Shortly thereafter it made its way to VOD while traveling across select theatres across the nation, and I didn’t do as much as add it to my queue for later viewing. It sat there and sat there and sat there. And then it finally made its way to the top of my Netflix once it got released proper, and even then, a month on top of my player, untouched. Waiting. Always as I was about to see it and decide if it was good, bad, or meh, another more interesting film came across and demanded attention. A lame excuse it was, but it kept me from it.

Reader, I don’t know what to tell you. Based on the Bonnie Nadzam novel of the same name, Lamb tells you the story of two people of completely different walks of life who have a chance encounter, although a creeping notion that chance is up to question continues to attempt to high-jack my thoughts and present to me some subtext.

You see, the two people in question are a 47 year old man (in the book he’s in his 50s) and a young girl of about 11 whom he spots at a public spot trying to ask him for a light for a cigarette.

Now, let’s do a quick back to the beginning of the story before I get into the real story that transpires in the movie. David Lamb (Ross Partridge) has experienced two losses — his father who livedin filth and died alone, and his wife to divorce. He seems to have caused some situation at work and has a rather casual, sordid of sorts affair with a female colleague (Jess Wexler). The story finds David meeting this young girl sporting the tomboy name of Tommie and thus the cigarette scene plays out, followed by a fake abduction where he sternly lectures her that he could have been a bad guy and done some harm, even murder her. She seems to be not that much fazed by the situation, and when she returns home, her parents (Scoot McNairy and Lindsey Pulsipher) don’t as much as acknowledge her presence.

David and Tommie have another encounter where he informs her he’s going for a trip someplace for a while. Why, we don’t know. Tommie tags along and here is where my creep-o-meter began climbing because I’m thinking, “Okay, this could very well go to a very icky place I’m not prepared or willing to see, and I hope it doesn’t.” As of this moment the movie is competently made (and at least it remained to be), but that’s not the point. Lamb and Tommie venture into open country playing the parts of Gary and his niece Emily while all the while engaging in conversations that seem to be of self-discovery but also go into some subtle manipulation on the part of the older David, who while telling Tommie she’s free to go back any time she wishes, pretty much is implying he’d rather she stay, to which she does.

Now, Tommie is no innocent by any means — she already acts well above her age and has a reply for everything. Oona Laurence as Tommie gives her character a sense of preternatural depth that kept reminding me of Tatum O’Neal. She’s a perfect foil to Ross Partridge’s talky but withholding character. It’s when he continues to repeat that their relation is secret, that he could go to jail because technically what he’s done is illegal. Then the arrival of a third party takes the story into a slightly darker level just shy of ick (especially when it involves a scene where Tommie is watching David from the outside of the house they’ve rented) where my fears of what’s not being said, what’s being kept out of frame really start to materialize.

Is David trying to test his own limits by using a young girl as bait? What can he gain by taking Tommie under his wing and lecturing her constantiy when in reality whatever bond they form — and they do form one — has no future? He seems to be a man on the edge of an abyss, staring at a world without hope, mired in self-temptation that exists just out of mind, but all over the picture. Tommie winds up being cheated, doubly, by an adult who presents himself as a friend and is left hanging.

In a nutshell, there are better ways to where an adult can mentor a child but this is a story that is too problematic for anyone to sit and watch without cringing or grabbing their stomach at the anticipation of what might happen. If there is something artistic to be said, long shots of scenery and a talky plot is not what I’d consider art. Maybe I didn’t get the message; maybe there is something else that’s in the fabric of this story, and while yes, there was a time when Lolita, a more sexually active story also involving an older man and a young girl (albeit a teen), was considered a controversial classic, I doubt Lamb ever will.