Rams is released nationwide on 5th February 2021
There is risk in remaking any film that achieved critical acclaim; a risk further elevated when the movie in question won the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes in 2015. But now and again, a remake gets it right, honouring the original while finding a new distinct voice. Directed by Jeremy Sims, Rams is one of those rare movies, the original Icelandic films themes of masculinity, rural isolation and community intact, yet viewed from a different perspective.
Colin (Sam Neill) and Les (Michael Caton) are brothers and sheep farmers living on the same Western Australian farm in separate houses. However, their lives together are far from idyllic. In fact, the Grimuson brothers haven’t spoken for years; their lives wrapped up in conflict and competition as they rear Calvin Horn sheep; a breed not found anywhere else in the world. Their only communication with each other is handwritten messages delivered by their shared sheepdog.
However, as Les’ prize-winning ram is diagnosed with Ovine Johne’s Disease, the brothers shared but separate lives are turned upside down. Here their isolation is invaded by government officials intent on stripping away their livelihood, threatening the very fabric of the wider town’s economy. However, Colin has a plan that might save his years of work, but at what risk to everyone around him?
The pre-release advertising for Rams mistakenly suggests this is a knockabout comedy. However, in reality, Sim’s film is rooted in human drama, and just like the Icelandic original, themes of isolation, masculinity and communication sit at the heart of its messages. Much of the success of Rams comes from Neill and Caton’s assured central performances, their nuanced take on family conflict, denial and competition alive with authenticity. Meanwhile, a strong ensemble cast, including Miranda Richardson, Asher Keddie, Wayne Blair, and Will McNeill, only add to the strength of Jules Duncan’s screenplay.
Of course, as with any remake, there will be those who ask, why? After all, the original surely covered similar ground and carried identical meaning. Grímur Hákonarson’s original remains my prefered choice; however, that does not mean Sims’ version is any less skilful. In providing a new cultural perspective on an award-winning story, Rams is far more than a mere copy; it is a richly textured comedy/drama bathed in love and care. Only time will tell whether Sims’ remake will earn similar adoration to the original, but as remakes go, this is one of the best you will find.
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