We all need a slice of feel-good in our locked-down lives right now, and while it’s set within a recognisably troubled world, Jeremy Sims’ Australian adaptation of Grímur Hákonarson’s indie hit from 2015 manages to fashion an unlikely upbeat ending from potentially upsetting material. At the core, this is a story of the love between a shepherd and his flock, or a farmer and his animals; whether ever way you look at it, Rams is a sweet, honest, home-grown film that deals engagingly with our finer feelings about nature.
The draw here is Sam Neill, a household name through Jurassic Park, but also an enduring star from the 80’s onwards; Omen III, Possession and Reilly Ace of Spies launched him as a star from the get-go . Neill plays Colin, a sheep-farmer who finds that authorities plan to cull every sheep in the valley due to a potential infection. That infection started with the flock of his feckless brother Les (Michael Caton), who lives next door; the two brothers are estranged, although gunfire is sometimes exchanged during Les’s less sober moments. Local vet Kat (Miranda Richardson) has her suspicions about Colin, who seems to have spirited away four of his favourite sheep; can he protect his wooly pals from the on-going slaughter?
Vague spoiler alert; the answer is yes, although the details of how the many of Colin’s sheep are killed may turn some audiences off. As with Hákonarson’s accomplished follow-up, The County, this is no whimsy, but a realistic view of the problems that farmers faced even before the pandemic, and doesn’t stint on the less-than-glamorous details. But if you can manage the downers, there’s also plenty to raise the spirits, with Caton, Richardson and Neill in particular in defiantly good form.The actors fit their roles like gloves, and it’s always great to see Richardson, the personification of girlish bonhomie as the Queen in Blackadder back in the day and still with a nice line in comedic timing.
Rams is a simple enough story of feuding farmers uniting for a common good; it’s not quite as witty as Neill’s last big crowd-pleaser, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but the caustic world-view reflects the minister’s less-than-comforting words in that film; ’We are sheep trapped in a maze designed by wolves’. Rams deserves credit for capturing the cruelty of nature, the perverse efficiency of our response, and the enduring love of those who respect earth’s mother, even to their own potential short-term detriment.
Rams is streamable in the UK from Feb 5th 2021
Thanks to Signature for early access to this film.