Rams Film Review

Film Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
In a secluded valley in Iceland, Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their sheep. Their ancestral sheep-stock is considered one of the country's best and the two brothers are repeatedly awarded for their prized rams who carry an ancient lineage. Although they share the land and a way of life, Gummi and Kiddi have not spoken to each other in four decades. When a lethal disease suddenly infects Kiddi's sheep, the entire valley comes under threat. The authorities decide to cull all the animals in the area to contain the outbreak. This is a near death sentence for the farmers, whose sheep are their main source of income, and many abandon their land. But Gummi and Kiddi don't give up so easily - and each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits. As the authorities close in the brothers will need to come together to save the special breed passed down for generations, and themselves, from extinction.

The Review
A very rural scene, which could easily be somewhere in New Zealand's south Island, complete with barbed wire fences, semi-green pastures, a stunning view of the alpines and a of course sheep glorious sheep, is where the film spends almost the entirety of the story. We quickly get the notion that this is going to be a story which is set not too far from our world, well for at least the agrarian culture of our society. We are in fact in Iceland where the population is a fraction of the size of New Zealand's.

It's on the other side of the world with a different language and pace yet as the we are introduced to the characters we realise that we're not so different. Sure they are in a very small rural town where driving a tractor through the middle of the town or turning up for a formal occasion on 'the quad' with a 'ram' strapped to the back carrier is seems to be the norm. Having said that, I'm sure that's possibly the norm for any farming culture? But as we get into the heart of the story and the hearts of the characters it becomes apparent that it is not a story focused on the differences of locations or culture but a story of the human heart.
Appropriately named "Rams", two brothers, sworn enemies for the past 30 years, share the family farm and the remanding flock of sheep left to them by their deceased father. Their sole purpose for existence is to win the coveted first prize for Best Ram. The brothers seem to have a history of achieving first and second place.This predicament seems to further fuel their ongoing feud.    The film cleverly introduces each character's back story with various incidental story lines which ultimately lead to a 'reckoning'.
The pace is slow but very thoughtful. I found myself hooked after about the first twenty minutes. Initially it seemed that the film was going to be a laid back comedy centered around rural satire. Gummi, the younger brother, delivers a sheep into his brother's house, Kiddi, locks it in then casually walks off pointing to the Kiddi's side of the paddock. There are a few dry laughs here and there but this is definitely a drama. There are a few touching moments when we see the depth of the passion they have for their flocks and a few tensioned-filled scenes when the two brothers are at the height of their struggle.
The other part of the film is the defiance of government authority. Although based on the other side of the world this is a subject that everyone can relate to at some level. Ironically it's this tread that aggravates their already strained relationship but also serves to bind them.

The Verdict
A slower paced film that is layered with subtle drama and tension throughout. I enjoyed the film not for its clever writing but for its ability to work at depth with the human struggle in a very simplistic and honest way. "Rams" is gritty and honest. A movie not intended for thrill seekers but for those who enjoy a good tale. 

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 4th August 2016
Rating: M – Contains offensive language and nudity
Duration: 93 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving, Jon Benonysson, Gunnar Jónsson, Þorleifur Einarsson, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, Ingrid Jónsdóttir
Director: Grímur Hákonarson ('A Pure Heart', 'Summerland')

The Extras
In France, where ARP Selection is distributing, the movie has been thriving at the box office.

Sold to over 40 territories.