By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
Journeyman actor Ross Partridge writes, directs and stars in this restrained but discomforting drama as David Lamb, a middle-aged man stuck in a downward spiral. Into his life comes Tommie (Oona Laurence), a precocious but misguided preteen peer-pressured into asking this troubled older man for a cigarette. Their interaction kicks off a secret friendship that begins with a make-believe abduction and proceeds with an actual abduction, as Lamb takes the girl to visit the family farm owned by his recently deceased father. Everything that Lamb says and does fits the profile of a child predator, and he’s also a skilled manipulator of vulnerable women, so even though there is a strange purity to his behavior, we’re never certain whether he’s nurturing this neglected young girl or grooming her. Despite its bottomless empathy and measured tone, Lamb can’t quite surmount the ickiness of its own premise. Still, the performances are good, and Partridge the director displays a strong command of tone and perspective. These are essential traits for a film concerned with right decisions made for the wrong reasons, and wrong decisions made for the right ones.