Movie review of “Rams”: This tale of two Icelandic sheep farmers — brothers in their 60s who haven’t spoken for 40 years — blends absurdist comedy with rural tragedy. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
The winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s 2015 Prize Un Certain Regard, “Rams” is the tale of two Icelandic brothers in their 60s who live for their sheep.
We’re not just talking about sheep as a livelihood. We’re talking about sheep as family heritage, sheep as objects of paternal devotion (neither brother is married).
Farmers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) may live right next door to each other, but they haven’t spoken to each other for 40 years. That makes matters difficult when scrapie, an affliction related to mad-cow disease, hits their remote valley in northern Iceland. All their flocks must be destroyed. All their hay must be burned. All their barns must be disinfected.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Rams,’ with Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson. Written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson. 93 minutes. Rated R for language and brief graphic nudity. In Icelandic, with English subtitles. Seven Gables.
Gummi’s response to this is seeming compliance with the authorities — and clever subterfuge. Kiddi’s is pure alcoholic rage and resistance, as well as blame of Gummi, who was the first to detect signs of the outbreak.
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Writer-director Grímur Hákonarson and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen magnificently capture the desolate wide-open spaces of rural Iceland. They’re good, too, on its contrast to the drab interiors of the brothers’ homes and the valley’s gathering places.
Where the film falters is in establishing a cohesive tone.
It works best as gallows comedy. (Gummi’s solution for getting his unconscious, inebriated, hypothermia-stricken brother to the local hospital is the high point.) But Hákonarson aims for genuine tragedy, too, and the film’s absurdist buildup and overwrought climax just don’t dovetail persuasively.
Sigurjónsson’s Gummi, with his quiet canniness and his fearful, conflicted feelings about his belligerent brother, is the best reason to watch “Rams.”
The sheep — reportedly carefully auditioned for the film — are pretty lively, too.