by Chris Connor
2015’s Rams was a surprise hit for Icelandic cinema, winning high levels of acclaim. The film focused on a pair of sheep farming brothers in the Nordic wilderness. Australian director Jeremy Sims has transported the story from frozen Iceland to scorching Australia and added doses of comedy to the original film’s bleak tone.
As with the original Icelandic film, Rams follows a pair of feuding brothers, in this case Colin and Les Grimurson played by Sam Neil and Michael Caton, who have not spoken for the past 40 years and who share a rivalry over their prized sheep. The brothers and the wider local farming community suffer a huge shock when an outbreak of a lethal illness hits one of Les’s sheep forcing the community to cull their flocks and think about what the future might hold for them.
The relationship of the two brothers drives the film and the bickering nature of the pair could quickly get tiresome but the performances of the two leads prevent it from being bogged down in this regard and we want to see the pair resolve their grievances.
While on the face of it this may sound like a bleak subject matter Neil and Caton’s comedic timing helps bring a sense of fun and the hijinks Colin gets up to, in saving a few sheep add a sense of fun. Miranda Richardson has some fine chemistry with Neil as a local vet investigating the outbreak who develops a friendship with Colin. It’s refreshing to see Sam Neil acting in these kind of films closer in spirit to his performance in Hunt For The Wilderpeople than the likes of Jurassic Park.
One of Rams biggest strengths is its depiction of the farming community of Australia’s Great Southern community, showing the true extent of the economic impact of the outbreak and its effect on livelihoods and lifestyle. One of the more surprising aspects is the way the film charts the decimating aftermath of bush fires there is an underlying sense that the summer season can be devastating for the community but towards the film’s conclusion we truly see this first hand as the farmers lend their support to taming the wildfires, showing their full destructive capacity. This unexpected shift adds a sense of depth and realism to proceedings giving the film more meaning than perhaps might be expected given its subject matter.
Rams is a faithful retelling of its inspiration doing a fine job transporting the tale from Iceland to rural Australia, while it is for the most part a fun and finely acted tale, it is in the film’s 2nd half that it takes on a new meaning showing the effects of both the outbreak among the sheep farming community but also the wider effects of bush fires that effect so many in Australia. Sam Neil is as ever a delight, showing more range than he is able to in his more blockbuster roles, given fine support from Michael Caton and Miranda Richardson. While perhaps not as ground-breaking as the film it is adapted from Rams is still a fun and surprisingly moving film.
Rams is out on VOD now