At its heart, Rams is a simple story, but it delves deep into the motives of the feuding brothers, bringing a richness and complexity of character that acts as the crux of this bittersweet morality tale. Director Grímur Hákonarson has created a Coen-esque world where the amusing actions of strange characters bring life to the screenplay in unpredictable and sometimes hilarious ways.
Sigurður Sigurjónsson (Gummi) and Theodór Júlíusson (Kiddi) don’t just portray their characters, they completely inhabit them, appearing as grizzled Icelandic brothers who you can believe have spent most of their lives away from the world in the company of their sheep and the occasional visiting neighbour. As the authorities and the possibility of a cull close in, the audience are plunged into an exhilarating third act, and the sheer audacity of the brother’s actions has you rooting for them to succeed in their desperately frantic endeavours.
Every family has its black sheep, and Kiddi takes on this role as a loveable rogue with his penchant for alcohol being the catalyst for numerous conflicts. His behaviour may provoke and upset his younger brother Gummi, but this provides viewers with frequent doses of humour that balance nicely with the brooding atmosphere. Their unusual relationship is key to the success of Rams’ storyline, and although the brothers may appear to despise each other, the fact they remain in close proximity and tolerate each other’s presence implies that the deep bond of brotherhood may still carry them through this dark hour.
The breath-taking Icelandic vistas act as the perfect backdrop for this captivating tale of brotherhood. Moments of serene silence allow the audience time to take in the stunning surroundings and beautiful shots of nature, as the camera brings life to a part of the world mostly unfamiliar to our shores.
It is hard to fault such a unique offering but the opening scenes do meander into the exposition at a rather leisurely pace, befitting of the two brother’s lifestyles. This may prove to be trying for those who find their attention wandering during slow scenes but those trusting in Hákonarson’s pace of storytelling are likely to segue into the eventful second half with ease, and will be more than compensated for their patience during the occasional scene that drags.
Hákonarson has crafted a fascinating tale about the world of sheep-farming and fleeces it for all its worth. As a black comedy, Rams is a compelling entry into the genre for Icelandic cinema but it is the emotional core of the story that resonates more than its humour and helps it to stand out from the flock. If you are curious about seeking out Rams then you definitely should give it your attention as it is a rewarding experience that is brimming with heart, humour, and originality.
Review by Tom Bielby
Rams is out now on home entertainment options.