Rams review: sheep farming because movie gold

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Sam Neil;, Michael Caton and Miranda Richardson lead the cast of Rams – and here’s our review of the prize-winning sheep movie.

A film about prize-winning sheep seems an unlikely candidate to be one of the most endearing dramas of the year, especially with a marketing campaign that touts it as a hilarious comedy. Yet don’t let the wool slide over your eyes, for Rams is a poignant and engrossing movie.

Based on an Icelandic movie of the same name, Rams revolves around a small valley community whose main source of income is breeding prize-winning sheep. At the heart of it are two neighbouring brothers, Colin (Sam Neill) and Les (Michael Caton), who haven’t spoken for decades. After a competition, Colin discovers that Les’ ram has a contagious disease and has to be put down, along with the entire flock of the valley. However, Colin has a plan and it’s only with the help of his gruff, booze-swilling older brother Les that they might turn things around.

Director Jeremy Sims adapts this quaint movie, that is less a black comedy and more a studied drama about how a chain of devastating events can decimate a small community of farmers. Isolated in the Australian wilds, these people rely on their livestock, and when they’re unfairly ripped from them it’s a hefty blow, delivered by unsympathetic bureaucrat De Vries (smarmily played by Leon Ford,) who – similarly to cinematic douchebags such as Ghostbusters’ Walter Peck – believes that they are just doing the right thing. The presence of De Vries showcases a stark difference in attitudes between the farmers and the government, as Les scoffs in the corner of the pub one day; “They don’t know, do they?”

Sam Neill leads the small cast in a role that seems tailor made for him. A quiet man who says very little with words, especially in the presence of his love interest Karen (Miranda Richardson), Colin is struggling to deal with the loss of his sheep. Neill uncovers a surprising softness to his character who adores his livestock more than anything.

Caton plays Les with similar layers. This is a man drinking venomously because he’s lost everything. He’s also ostracised by the community he’s a part of because his younger, more affable brother is much preferred. Sitting at the edge of conversations and only uttering gruffly now and then, Caton eventually softens him to the climatic moments of the film but he never stops making you feel for the man, even when burning in a drunken stupor on his arm.

Losing everything slowly starts to bring the pair together and, despite only having allusions to their backstory and rift, it is warming to watch them develop. Two hours of sheep farming could be a struggle, but Sims directs this so deftly that it flies by. An amicable and soft movie that rams you hard with emotion.

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