Director - Ross Partridge, Cinematography - Nathan M. Miller
“Don’t ever forget this hurt. Don’t ever forget the things that we’ve seen together, cause it’ll save you. You will be an apple tree among all the ash-colored buildings of this city. You just need to close your eyes and take a deep breath and listen. Listen to the rain and the wind. All that rushing through you. That’ll be me whispering to you. I’ll be with you this way.”
Prompt: Jopper + New Year’s Eve + Fireworks + First Kiss
Just a fun fact here: I know that Lonnie is played by Ross Partridge in Stranger Things but, personally, I always imagine him as Johnny Depp. Knowing that he and Winona dated in the 90’s and the character is a completely jerk, I guess it fits him, lol. So, with that being said, here’s the story.
New Year’s Eve, 1968.
“I had a feeling I might find you here” Jim said looking down at Joyce Byers with her green long sleeve dress and pony tail, sitting on the bench, trying -and failing due to the cold weather - to smoke in the Winston’s backyard.
Chase Winston, the captain of the football team, was throwing a huge party for the new year’s eve and it was the only thing people talked about before the holiday’s break in Hawkins High School. And now there was two kinds of people running around the boy’s house: the cool kids, who were properly invited, and the social rejected, who just sneaked in somehow.
Joyce was invited as a friend of a friend but Jim climbed the back fence of the property just to laugh at some stupid people getting drunk and doing bullshit. Either way, the place was full to the brim with loud teenagers and they both were suffocating in there at some point.
“What do you have there? I’m tired of mine’s” she said giving up of her own cigarette and pointing to the front pocket of his black leather jacket, where the camel’s laid on. Jim sat next to her on the bench and handed her a lighted up camel he was just smoking himself.
“Where’s lover boy?” he said.
“I don’t know. Somewhere, being a completely asshole” she rolled her eyes and puffed out some smoke
“You two had a fight or something?” he asked looking at her but Joyce’s eyes were fixed on the icy grass above their feet.
“We broke up”
“On the new year’s eve? What an douche” Hopper joked trying to lighten up the mood. Joyce showed a half smile and he felt as if it was good enough.
“Yeah, well… to be specific, I broke up with him” she said swinging her feet back and forth a little, making marks on the snow with the movement. “I went to the bathroom and when I came back, he was flirting with Patricia.”
“Oh…” Jim was both surprised with the whole situation and proud of her but, either way, he tried to act like it was nothing.
“Should have known better” she continued “You warned me.”
“I did. But he really topped all my expectations of being a total ass by letting you down like that” he said and she looked up at him with the kind of shine in the eyes that told him she was fighting the tears.
Joyce handed him the cigarette and Jim smoked a little in it. He just kept on sending her a protective look but let she recovered by herself, respecting the her time until she was ready to talk again.
“It’s okay. It will pass, right? “She took a deep breath and quickly rubbed out the tears” I mean, it’s just a high school romance. I’ll be fine.“
“You’ll be fine” he reassured her, placing an arm around her shoulders “Because if you won’t, I’m gonna have to punch Lonnie’s pretty face until he’s as ugly as Mr. Crouch from Biology I”
And then Joyce laughed for the first time that night. She just pulled her head back and laughed so hard that her belly hurted. Lonnie never could make her laugh like that and Jim knew that very well. They shared a complicated relationship and even though Joyce liked the guy, he was always being abusive and disrespectful so she kept coming back to Jim for advices and comfort. And that moment, her genuinely laughter was just like music to his ears.
“Thank you” she said when she finally could catch her breath. Joyce looked deep into Jim’s eyes and he felt as if she could read his thoughts and see through his soul.
“You are an amazing girl, Joyce.” he said “Lonnie really don’t deserve you.”
“I miss things like they were before” Joyce replied avoiding the subject “just the two of us, making stupid jokes of our teachers, skipping classes, playing pranks at random people in the streets”
“I know. Me too”
“Do you think we can be like that again?” she whispered as if it was some secret, moving closer to him to feel his heat. “I mean, is it still possible that I haven’t lost you too?”
“If you want us to be like that again, then yeah, we can.” he answered caressing her shoulder. “You’ll never lose me”
Joyce was ice cold and Jim placed his jacket on her shoulders just like the way they did before her now ex-boyfriend came around. It still looked huge on her but she seemed pretty comfortable with it.
Inside the house, the new year’s countdown was beginning too slow because people were too much drunk to count. They both remained silent, smoking one cigarette together until sparky fireworks hitted the sky followed by champagne popping and people yelling. Joyce looked up but Hop couldn’t take his eyes out of her. He was mesmerised by the bright colors shadowing her face, making her silhouette look like it was hand painted in a perfect line.
When she smiled to the sky and looked at him, Jim felt like his heart were going to burst out of his chest. He was looking at her perfect shaped mouth and instinctively he came even closer, their faces inches apart. He could feel her sweet breath in his skin, her eyelids closing slowly as her lips opened, and then he finally knew it was the right moment to take her mouth into his.
Joyce cupped his cheek with cold hands and his skin shivered a little. But the moment was nothing but warm and sweet as their lips and tongues moved synchronized. She seemed small and fragile but Jim felt like he could melt under her touch at any moment. They kissed slowly, enjoying every minute of it until he parted their lips just to look at her and make sure it wasn’t some kind of delirium. He had dreamed of that moment for a long time.
“What?” she said, finding the whole staring moment funny
“Merry fucking christmas to me” he smiled and stole a kiss again
“You’re a little late. It’s happy new year” Joyce laughed between two kisses and slided her hand to his hair when he follow her jaw line with little kisses.
“Happy fucking new year then” he whispered on her neck while Joyce admired how the fireworks fitted perfectly in with the stars in the sky.
Not really knowing anything about Lamb aside from a vague plot synopsis, I didn’t really know what to expect here, and I would say was a refreshing way to see this movie. Written by, directed by, and starring Ross Partridge, a movie about 47-year-old David Lamb (Partridge) who has a chance encounter with 11-year-old Tommie (Oona Laurence) and decides to take her on a road trip in order to show her what the world has to offer is bound to be at least a little uncomfortable, and Lamb definitely rides the line of sympathetic and creepy. However, with a good amount of interesting ideas that are more often than not successfully executed and a great lead performance from 13-year-old Oona Laurence, the movie manages to be intriguing despite noticeable pacing issues in its second half.
Like most low-budget indies that very rarely gain any real audience, Lamb is much more of a movie of ideas than a movie of bravado. Part Lost In Translation, part Somewhere, part Birth, and all as a road movie—and yes, I understand that that sounds like a very odd combination—the movie does a really good job at briefly yet effectively illustrating the lives of its two main characters. The script parallels their lives without ever making it on-the-nose of pandering, and the direction’s choices on what to focus on make for a movie that is largely told from the perspective of the 47-year-old man, which is a pretty bold decision considering its content.
Lamb is a pretty uncomfortable movie to watch at times given how a grown man is forging a relationship with a little girl that, while reminiscent of a father-daughter bond, has a tangibly romantic undertone to it. It doesn’t quite paint its protagonist as a pedophile; the sympathy on display is rather impressive. The characters’ actions make sense, and that’s what makes the movie simultaneously uncomfortable and warm. It’s interesting to see a man with no real family try to project his remaining happiness onto an innocent girl with a rather deadbeat family and no real friends. Like Lost In Translation, the push and pull between the characters make for an interest dynamic. Like Somewhere, the father-daughter-esque relationship is very charming, but like Birth, the transgressive nature makes it somewhat questionable from an ethical standpoint. All of this is bolstered by Oona Laurence’s portrayal of the 11-year-old, her presence strong and her charisma reminiscent of that of both Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Elle Fanning in Somewhere.
Lamb isn’t perfect, though, and that mostly has to do with its script. The movie feels very front-loaded in how a majority of its characterization comes about in the first 45 minutes, while the 40 minutes suffer from the law of diminishing returns. The focus on the male protagonist’s girlfriend isn’t interesting, yet it’s necessary, and the pacing suffers as a result. Similarly, some of the ideas feel underdeveloped compared to what could have been, and although the movie has a great first half, there are one or two moments in the last 30 minutes where I almost fell asleep because everything came to a halt. There’s also one moment in the scene that’s needlessly weird and doesn’t contribute much of anything—it just feels like the script was trying to keep the momentum going but didn’t know how to.
Although Lamb suffers from a somewhat uneven script and its pacing falters as a result, the acting on display is impressive to say the least, namely from Laurence. Partridge performs slightly better as a director than a screenwriter here, and although he’s a solid actor, it really is Laurence that steals the show. Nonetheless, the ideas and character dynamics are intriguing, ultimately making for an interesting—if not groundbreaking—movie.