DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Sims
STARRING: Sam Neill, Michael Caton, Miranda Richardson, Asher Keddie, Wayne Blair, Hayley McElhinney, Asher Yasbineck, Travis McMahon, Leon Ford, Kipan Rothbury, Will McNeill and Bevan ‘Fudd’ Lang
In remote Western Australia, two estranged brothers, Colin and Les, are at war. Raising separate flocks of sheep descended from their family’s prized bloodline, the two men work side by side yet are worlds apart. When Les’s prize ram is diagnosed with a rare and lethal illness, authorities order a purge of every sheep in the valley. While Colin attempts to stealthily outwit the powers that be, Les opts for angry defiance. But can the warring brothers set aside their differences and have a chance to reunite their family, save their herd, and bring their community back together?
Rams is an Australian comedy-drama based on Grímur Hákonarson’s 2015 Icelandic drama Hrútar. Adapted by Jules Duncan and directed by Jeremy Sims, the film is set in remote Western Australia Great South Region (shot on location in a small farming town in Mount Barker) and focuses on two estranged brothers Colin and Les, who have not spoken to each other in four decades, yet their stud farms at side by side to on another. When Les’s prized ram is diagnosed with OJD (Ovine Johne’s Disease), leading to the Department of Agriculture having to step in and put down every sheep in the valley in order to stop the disease from spreading. Unbeknownst to everyone in the valley however is Colin is quietly hiding a few sheep and his ram from being purged by being pent up in his house, but Colin can’t really hide them forever from everyone, including Les, can he?
Rams wasn’t a project I was familiar with when I sat down to watch it, so it was only after seeing it and doing a bit of research into the film did I realise that it was in fact a reimagining of an Icelandic drama. The premise of the film is enticing enough in wondering what it was exactly set the brothers off to have such a grudge that they haven’t spoken to one another in forty years? In terms of their personalities, they couldn’t be more different, with Colin having a quiet demeanour but he’s more sociable than Les, who is an alcoholic with a fiery temper that alienates him from the rest of the community. The one thing they do have in common however is the love for their sheep. Unfortunately, their fractured relationship is strained further when Colin reports the possibility of Les’s prized ram having OJD, which leads to Les having a bigger hatred towards his younger brother for what’s about to come. While the promotional material from the poster to the trailer (which features the line of ‘where there’s a wool there’s a way’), you’d believe that Rams would be a light-hearted comedy, but the film definitely has some dramatic, and tragic weight to it, particularly when we see how the brothers handle the loss of their sheep as the DoA step in to take them away to put them down, with Les begging and pleading with De Vries not to take them away, while Colin decides to change his sheep’s fate in his own hands.
The film is well directed by Jeremy Sims, with some nice cinematography work by Steve Arnold in capturing the Australian landscape. In terms of performance, there’s a certain nuance to Sam Neill’s performance as Colin that he will always capture your attention whenever he’s on screen, and Michael Caton is really good as Colin’s fiery brother Les. How the film will rest with viewers however is 1) whether or not they have seen the Icelandic original and 2) whether they find Australian humour to be their kind of funny. While i found certain moments funny, particularly in a scene involving Colin using a tracker to pick up a drunkenly passed-out and sunburnt Les to drop him off at the front of the hospital, the film overall feels too understated for its own good and left me wanting more. There’s a particular romance angle between Colin and Miranda Richardson, who gives a good performance but is underused, that is so lightly padded that it seems like an opportunity was missed to develop that further.
With two solid performances from its main stars, Sam Neill and Michael Caton, and your experience of the film will depend if you’re coming in with fresh eyes or if you’ve caught the original film. Comedic at times, there’s heart within Rams that make the film worth checking out.