Starring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving
Director: Grímur Hákonarson
In an age of digital marketing saturation, social media domination and notifications of the latest Disney blockbuster being sent to you while you’re sat on the loo, it’s always refreshing to have a film sneak up unannounced and give you that warm fuzzy hidden gem feeling. Resembling its Icelandic counterparts, Rams is like finding a Sigur Ros in a big bag of Coldplays.
Rams follows two brothers who reside next door to each other in a remote sheep farming community in the Icelandic countryside. Having not spoken to each other for 40 years, Gummi (Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Júlíusson) are finally forced to deal with their strained relationship after a rare disease triggers the slaughter of their entire valleys flock. Each brother deals with the situation in his own way; Gummi having the functioning sibling role; calm and calculating with his understated intelligence and Kiddi with drink induced anger and violence.
As you would expect from a film based on the hillsides of Iceland, the scenery is stunning but is never used to build the crew’s cinematography portfolio. In fact, it only adds to the evident toughness of the people’s lives there, surviving a challenging livelihood with the backdrop of such natural splendour. The relationship between the farmers and their animals and how it intrinsically represents, and is inherently tied to, the entire history of their family is at times both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
What is most surprising about Rams is how it creeps up on you; how you find yourself sincerely caring for its characters towards the end of the film. You genuinely feel for the brother’s relationship yet the script is so subtle in its depiction of the association between the two that the feeling comes as a real surprise when it finally hits. This is made even more remarkable considering how much of a slog the first thirty minutes are to get through.
There are sweet little comedy moments too. The brothers use a sheep dog to deliver notes to each other and at one point Gummi delivers a drunken Kiddi to the local A&E in the bucket of a digger, but these moments are infrequent and never feel like forced slapstick. The humour is always believable and acts as a nice break from the melancholy of the primary story.
Rams is a lovely surprise, a film that intentionally builds up slowly and is so understated in the development of its main characters that by the end of the film, you forget about almost everything else but the affection you have subconsciously developed for the two brothers. A sneaky little treasure of a movie whose ending will stay with you for a long time.
7 / 10