fri 21/06/2024

Rams review – softhearted bush-loving drama | reviews, news & interviews

Rams review – softhearted bush-loving drama

Rams review – softhearted bush-loving drama

Remake of Icelandic black comedy in tranquil outback setting

Competing Brothers Les and Colin in Rams

Kiwi and Aussie screen legends Sam Neill and Michael Caton have teamed up in this heartfelt and humorous remake of Grímur Hákonarson’s 2015 Icelandic original. The template of Hákonarson’s story has been transplanted but all the details and fillings have changed.

Director Jeremy Sims pitches us in Australian sheep country, a sunny and laconic world where life flows at a pretty breezy pace. Until disaster sweeps in.

Brothers Colin (Neill) and Les (Caton) live on adjacent farms but haven’t spoken for years. Colin is kind and earnest, while Les could have dropped off the set of the 1970s psycho-thriller Wake in Fright. He gurgles with the hard-drinking gruffness of the “Have another schooner, mate” type. Les is isolated and it’s clear that something is hurting him deep inside. After each binge he’s found face down in the paddock, his exposed skin pruning under the morning sun.

Meanwhile, Colin attends to his sheep promptly every day by directly addressing each one and telling them they’re beautiful. He is clearly liked in the town, especially by Kat (Miranda Richardson) who invites herself over with wine, which he doesn’t drink (she returns with beers), in repeated attempts to win his affection. But Colin has also retreated from life in a similar, albeit less riotous, way to Les. It’s a puzzle to Kat why Colin doesn’t just speak to his brother, in this land where everyone’s mates with everyone. In this way and others, Sims smartly integrates the localisms of Aussie country life into the unfolding tension between the characters.RamsThe real drama brews when a sheep disease sweeps the community and the authorities order every sheep to be killed. Almost everyone does what they’re told. Some farmers talk about selling up. Not Colin. He’s a stalwart, having inherited his farm from many generations down the line. He’s also on the fire patrol roster, getting called out in the summer to sweep back the bushfires. It's the land and the sheep that he cares for most and he’ll do anything he can to protect them.

A satirical but ultimately annoying side character enters the film to pester Colin. This is the man from “The Department”, a suit-wearing bureaucrat whose job is to make sure the quarantine is done correctly (and all the sheep are killed). He knows nothing about country life, complains about the poor wi-fi, drives Colin to silent fury, and is an over-egged parody of himself for too long. It's a shame Sims felt the audience wouldn’t get the shtick. Aside from this, the humour is rewarding when situations calmly eke out the gaffs and quips from the stoic farm blokes as they battle on.

Neill and Caton are the reason to go because their performances relay so well off each other. Admirers of the original storyline might feel Sims has softened the plot tension a bit, but Rams benefits from the easygoing mood.

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