‘Rams’ Review: Ailing Sheep and Quirky Characters


The rough, dirty life of Australian sheep farmers seems like an unlikely subject that brings much to cinematic lyric poetry. Especially in a story where sheep actually die from a devastating disease. Still, rooted in a 2016 Icelandic film of the same name, “Rams” has its pastoral moments (mostly in its breathtaking views of Western Australian landscapes), not to mention rough comedy.

The story of the screenwriter Jules Duncan is not generally unknown given a hemispheric change from the original by Grimur Hákonarson. It is the story of dissenting brothers who, after much resistance, are forced to become brothers in arms.

Colin (Sam Neill), a silent guy, shares land, but not much else, with his older brother Les (Michael Caton), an angry guy who is more volatile than Colin only because he likes to scold people. They live and work on two neighboring properties that once belonged to their father. Their rams belong to a special breed and are invariably the envy of the region as a competition for the opening certificates of the film.

Colin notices a problem with one of the prize copies. A friendly local vet (Miranda Richardson) confirms that a rare but catastrophic disease is at work. All nearby sheep beasts must be liquidated and the area must be quarantined for a few years.

Colin doesn’t have it and he hides a few sheep in his house. Soon Les, with whom he has not spoken to in decades, gets wind of it – literally as the smell increasingly binds to Colin’s place and wafts from him. Much of the film’s comedy stems from Colin’s futile efforts to keep his animals hidden. And his new alliance with Les comes from what they have to do to keep these beasts alive.

Directed by Jeremy Sims, the film negotiates emotional downshifts and ups with confidence. Some of the characterizations are unpredictably peculiar – Les’ enthusiasm for the 1970s hard rock group Humble Pie is unexpected. The main joy of “Rams”, however, is watching the three seasoned lead actors play out their eccentricity.


Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. In cinemas and on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay-TV operators. Please read the Policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching films in theaters.



Robert Dunfee