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Andreas_N
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Lamb (1986)
02. Jan 2006 at 14:23
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This comment contains crucial information about the ending. So please do not read it unless you know / want to know about it.




I give Lamb a 4. If it had not been for the movie's last 10 minutes, I would have given it a 7. The ending though is simply horrible and disgusting. My review will now take a closer look at the story and why I think the arguments of those who like the last scenes miss the point and are as surrealistic as the ending itself.

Lamb is the story of the Christian Brother Michael Lamb (played by Liam Neeson) and his doomed love for 10 year old boy. He works at a Remand Home on the Irish Coast and is struggling with his loss of faith. Very soon the epileptic Owen (Hugh O'Connor) is put into the care of the Home by his obviously cold-hearted mother. The institution is run by Brother Benedict (Ian Bannen), who has a sadistic streak and does not care about individuals and their problems. When Lamb's father dies, the young priest seems to have some sort of emotional breakdown – at least this assumption makes the following events somehow understandable. Owen, who regresses under the Home's brutal regime, is initially not interested in Lamb as the kind of mentor the young priest wants to be for the boy, but as soon as Owen finds out that Lamb wants to help him, he sides with the young priest. As Lamb is about to expect some inheritance, he decides to quit his work at the Home and to take Owen with him. They manage to leave the institution clandestinely and eventually arrive in London, where they are masquerading as father and son. Things get worse quickly, they run out of money after a short time and have to realize that the police is already in pursuit. Lamb tries to make a living, but as Owen's physical condition deteriorates alarmingly due to a lack of tablets and as the police is closing in, he takes him back to Ireland.

From this point on the movie becomes surrealistic and disturbing. Lamb apparently seems to think that Owen needs salvation, that his suffering is not to be cured, and that he is the only one who can redeem the boy from his sorely-tried life. So he gives him other tablets instead of those which Owen normally takes to prevent his fits, and takes him to the beach. There Owen breaks down. Lamb grabs his body and walks into the sea. He puts his head under the surface and apparently drowns the boy. He then leaves the body on a dune and dives into the sea himself several times. He finally comes back, places himself next to Owen's dead body – and here the movie ends.

Now these last shots are totally beyond me. They are surreal, only to be grasped if you assume Lamb having lost his mind. The movie is not bad at all, starts with an interesting premise, shows a dear relationship which gradually grows stronger between the boy and the priest. The story itself is not necessarily coherent all the time and sometimes lacking sophisticated and realistic proceedings, but it works – save for the end.

Other reviewers have stated that the final scenes are strong and convincing because they are tragic and far off the corny happy-ending pattern. The DVD cover calls it "the ultimate act of love and mercy". Some have said that Owen has finally found peace.

This attitude lacks good common sense. Everyone who has at least some understanding of terms such as "responsibility" and "reason" would have to realize that this ending is entirely unrealistic. If Lamb had really loved the boy, he would have quit the hiding and running away and assured Owen's save return, so that he could be treated according to his illness. Owen trusts him – even loves him – by the end of the movie, but Lamb abuses this trust and kills the boy. He kills him. He kills a boy who has his entire life still ahead, who has yet to experience so much and find out so many aspects of life. Why does he do so? Because he panics; loses his mind; turns mad – however you wish to put it.

I have no problem with tragic endings; I have no problem with emotionally thrashing and exposing scenes that are far off the stereotypical happy ending. So if Owen would have drowned, or died due to an accident or some sort of complications from epilepsy – fine. But this is nonsense, surrealistic and entirely beyond common sense. Lamb seems to be so strongly obsessed by the boy – probably caused by the loss of his own father – that he abandons the thought of returning him into the custody of the Home. Of course, Lamb would have to go to prison, Owen would probably return to the Home or some other institution, and yes, he would presumably continue to suffer, BUT: He would be alive. And this is my point. How anyone dares to call the killing of an innocent child "an act of mercy and love" is simply beyond me. How can anyone think that this deed does any good to Owen?

The boy is dead, and the one he trusted is responsible for it and has done everything deliberately. This is the sad essence of a story that has such a good background plot and very interesting events happening, but is simply ruined by a disgusting and appalling ending.

  
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drewski
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Re: Lamb (1986)
Reply #1 - 12. Feb 2006 at 10:51
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In many ways I agree with the review by Andreas_N. The ending made absolutely no sense to me. There is no reasonable rationale for killing the boy based on anything that I saw in the movie. The priest seems hopelessly naive. In fact, that much is clear fairly early in the movie when he decides to take it upon himself to remove the boy from the facility.

Another scene which was ridiculous to the point of being comical was the little scene where the priest comes back home to the boy after a day of working construction, to find the boy stoned. In his absence another "tennant" spent time with the boy and shared some marijuana (apparently) with the lad. The priest goes ballistic at this point and accuses the other "tennant" of taking indecent advantage of the boy. There are multiple ironies here, but I won't even get into that!
  
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cal-Q-L8
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Re: Lamb (1986)
Reply #2 - 12. Feb 2006 at 15:56
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Priests and most other things to do with religion lack logic anyway. As a kid I was subjected to a fair degree of religious dogma and I know what harm it can cause.

It's been some years since I've watched this film but I do recall a strong sense of compassion and genuine love between the priest and the boy.

I'll certainly be watching out for this movie again.
  
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nicolas
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Re: Lamb (1986)
Reply #3 - 01. May 2006 at 05:43
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The european dvd of this film is one of the worst prints of any movie on dvd.  No sign of any digital remastering, and it plays more like an old television show.

Is a decent quality release available anywhere?
« Last Edit: 03. May 2006 at 20:31 by nicolas »  
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