Sam Neill, Michael Caton, Miranda Richardson, Asher Keddie
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…feels like a nice, big, warm, messy hug that just goes on for a little bit too long.
Without the American box office behemoths, now is not a bad time for Australian films. Though the numbers are obviously down, our by-their-very-nature more modest films at least now don’t have to jostle so hard for screens in local cinemas and bandwidth in the minds of local filmgoers. Into this uncertain but potentially welcoming landscape strides the singularly charming and utterly Aussie comedy drama Rams. Directed by prolific actor turned filmmaker, Jeremy Sims (Beneath Hill 60, Last Cab To Darwin), Rams is something of a stand-alone in that it’s a remake of the 2015 Icelandic film, Hrutar. Rarely (if ever?) do we co-opt flicks from overseas, but this one has been rebirthed so effectively that you’d never guess that it originated elsewhere.
The film follows sheep farming brothers Colin (Sam Neill) and Les (Michael Caton), who have been engaged in a long-simmering feud that hits boiling point when a dangerous virus afflicts their respective flocks. Along with tensions in their small Western Australian home town; the attentions of officious veterinarian, Kat (Miranda Richardson); and encroaching bushfire season, the situation becomes even more dire…and also more funny.
Though it could have unquestionably used a more judicious edit (at two hours, the film is just too long), Rams swings by easily on its witty script (Jules Duncan has skillfully re-planted Grímur Hákonarson’s original in rich Aussie soil and allowed it to spring forth with all manner of winning vernacular), striking visuals (Steve Arnold’s lensing is a joy to behold), strong supporting cast, surprisingly topical story details (Viruses? Bushfires?), and big dramatic moments. It is, of course, however, the teaming of Sam Neill and Michael Caton that makes Rams such a treat. These are wonderful actors, and their gruff, blustery interplay is joyously entertaining, while their bona fide icon status gives the film an undeniable sense of import. They’re well worth spending time with, and the endearingly entertaining Rams ultimately feels like a nice, big, warm, messy hug that just goes on for a little bit too long.