4 out of 5 stars
For fans of international films, the premise and look of Rams might seem familiar. This is due to it being an Australian re-imagining of an Icelandic cult classic of the same name. A project that moves the sheep-centred storyline from the icy cold of a small island nation to the sunburnt plains of Western Australia. Director Jeremy Sims (Last Cab to Darwin) works to capture the dry comedic gold of the original while showing the similarities of rural communities in our dry and dusty land. Specifically, how their livestock and relationships can bring them together through the best and worst of times.
Over the past few decades, the Grimurson brothers have been at war with one another. Despite living next to one another and even sharing farming facilities, they have not talked to one another in over 40 years. The tension between the two men is never more evident than on the day of the local fair where their prize rams compete for the prize of best in show. When Les (Michael Caton) wins the competition, Colin (Sam Neill) holds back his animosity and looks ahead to next year. After the competition fades, he decides to have a look at his brother’s prize animal. While inspecting the ram, Colin discovers that the animal has a highly contagious disease that will jeopardise his flock and all of the sheep in the valley.
With a certain level of discretion, the farmer reaches out to Kat (Miranda Richardson), the local veterinarian and judge of the competition. She inspects the sheep, comes up with the same disastrous findings and has to report her test results to the national government. Due to the viscous nature of the disease, all of the sheep in the valley must be destroyed. The farming community strives to honour the governmental actions and do all they can to support one another through this local tragedy. Then as bushfire season approaches, they notice that Colin has kept to himself for the months since his sheep had died. All of his friends try to reach out to the farmer, but his reclusive manner has them all worried, especially when they suspect that they hear and smell sheep in his home.
Besides the geographical change of the original Icelandic film, the key difference between the two projects is the overall tone. Sims does all that he can to incorporate the dry wit of Australia into this tragic countryside tale. The Australian spin on this farming community story delivers a film that should be accessible to audiences worldwide. To bring together the comedic timing of this star-studded cast while shooting it against the dry and dusty backdrop of the landscape turns this into a true Aussie adventure.
Not to think that this is merely a comedy, because this story is dramatically tragic with a whisper of redemption in the background. This scripting combination plays to the acting strengths of Neill and Richardson. Two seasoned actors who carry this film through to its ominous and fiery conclusion. Their performances overshadow the fact that some editing nip and tucks could have occurred in some of the dramatic elements. Yet, the overall project does provide a refreshing film for anyone to enjoy.
What Sims does convincingly tap into is the culture of the farming community and the relationship that farmers have with their livestock. The director manages to show the manner and attitude that permeates those who live off the land. Showing how communication is nuanced and is usually shown with few words and subtle expressions of emotion. Also, showing how these individuals can show more emotion when they are with their animals than they do with the humans in their lives. The cast masterfully embodies the characteristics of those gifted individuals who live in the country and bring the world the food we love.
Rams comes with an abundance of emotion, wonderfully understated humour and an appreciation for those who make the farm their home. An Australian movie that delivers one of the most entertaining and welcoming stories for all audiences this year.
REEL DIALOGUE: Forgiveness
"You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day."
Where is your limit for forgiveness? One of the key elements of Rams is the concept of forgiveness. Two brothers who have not talked in 40 years, but cannot even remember why they had fought with one another. These two men who eventually are put into a challenging situation that push them to the edge of considering the boundaries of forgiveness.
Two things to consider in this discussion is the limit of forgiveness and why should we forgive at all. It can be said that resentment only hurts the one that holds onto it. The Bible has much to say on this topic, this might be a good place to start when considering some of the concepts from this movie.
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9