On this day of hope and optimism, you may be looking for something to compliment that joy, so this week in our Virtual Movie Palace may we present: RAMS, from director Jeremy Sims and starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton. An Australian remake of an Icelandic film of the same name that played at the 2016 Cinetopia Film Festival, who would have thought that a film that begins with a bacterial outbreak could be perfect for this moment, but nevertheless, it comes to us with reminders and themes that we can take to heart.
First, let’s get the film’s marketing out of the way. If you have seen the trailer, you’ve seen a film that is conveyed as a Grumpy Old Men-esque comedy set in the Australian bush, sprinkled with shots of Sam Neill showering in his white undergarments, a close-up of a ram’s grown genitals, and the groaning tagline, “where there’s a wool, there’s a way.” Not to mention, the film’s poster that plays up the Odd Couple pairing of Neill and Caton, playing warring brothers who live just an acre apart, with a ram in the middle sheepishly mugging for the camera. While the film does have these moments, it’s actually far deeper than that and drives more on drama than anything else.
RAMS is a story of family, as well as our earthly relationships with animals and nature. In the opening moment of the film, Sam Neill’s Colin takes pride in his livestock, describing each one genuinely as “beautiful”. It seems funny, but what you’ll find is that he really means it. So when a dangerous outbreak that may have infected the entire region’s livestock is discovered, it’s extremely heartbreaking to see these farmers say goodbye to their herds. A herd which, in Colin’s case, we’ve been told has been bred by their family for generations. This conclusion to the first act is by far the most upsetting moment of the film, but following that we find ourselves invested in Colin’s plan to protect a select few of his precious stock that he keeps hidden in his modest home.
Rather than playing what you’d expect to be gruff, simple backwoods farmers content at bickering and shooting at each other in the night (again, as is portrayed in the trailer), their souls are more complex. These characters grow as believable people, with Sam Neill comfortably playing what may perhaps be his most honest self. After all, if you follow his Instagram, you’ll be treated to the comfortable and lovely farm life he actually lives in New Zealand.
Even the brothers’ hatred for each other is a thing of complexity. Though they have their outbursts, Neill and Caton describe their feud to us mostly through passing expressions, giving us all we need to know without saying anything at all. And from their relationship, Jeremy Sims gives us a mature image of masculinity with a lesson about the virtues of life.
RAMS is a film that will leave you sad at times, but ultimately lifts you up from those feelings to find a story that is full of hope, acceptance, and optimism, with reminders that in times of despair, there will always be an opportunity to rebuild. And even though we have experienced such loss, we should love and appreciate, and never take for granted, those that still surround us.
As always, we hope you enjoy the film. Have a great week and I can’t wait to see you again soon.