MOVIE REVIEW: Rams (aka Hrútar)

Director: Grímur Hákonarson
Writer: Grímur Hákonarson
Stars: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving

In a remote farming valley a break out of a rare disease that effects their main livestock threatens to crush the area.  Two brothers, who live side by side, and haven’t talked in 40 years have to slaughter their sheep.  This causes friction between the two and forces them to face their past.

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On the surface this is a simple drama about family.  The farming community is a family that faces the ever-changing weather and social aspects that affects their income and crop or livestock.  As someone who lives in a city the only reason that I care about Farmers is because I love steak and chips, and I’m sure, because I checked, that both those products come from farms.  We don’t realise the pressures they face, how one little thing can change their whole financial outlook, or how a disease can just wipe away their lives.  Here in Rams the disease, from the description in the film, sounds like a sheep version of Mad Cow Disease, and it causes the entire population of sheep in this valley to be destroyed.  Gummi and Kiddi are the two brothers in question and Gummi finds the disease first in a Ram that Kiddi owns.  When Gummi shares his suspicion with a friend the chain reaction leads the government to get involved and all the sheep in the area to be distroyed.

Kiddi feels as though Gummi has let their bitter dispute from 40 years ago get the better of him.  While Gummi is saddened by the news that he must slaughter his flock, he gets on with the process, in what is one of the more emotional scenes in any film I’ve seen in a while.  While Kiddi refuses to kill his sheep or clean the area where the infected sheep were, forcing the government to do it by force.  Kiddi jumps into alcohol, and in the bleak winter has one or two moments when he passes out in the freezing cold, making Gummi bury the past and helping him back to health.  What Kiddi doesn’t know is that Gummi has saved a few choice sheep that will ensure the breed that means so much to both brothers lives on.  He has to keep these sheep a secret because if he doesn’t the government will seek to kill them.

To be honest with you this film got me straight in the feels.  The storyline, while I don’t know anything about farming, hit to a point in my own life.  I haven’t talked to one of my four brothers in over 15 years.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not a sob story, we’re both far happier not having anything to do with the other, it’s just you start to see the pointless nature of these arguments.  The sheepdog that Kiddi owns brings messages between to the two brothers, and this also hit home as we used to have a black lab dog in our house that did the same.  I guess that if you have an ongoing argument with a loved, and they are still loved even if you don’t want to talk or see them, family member.

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The stark Icelandic countryside is almost like a Game of Thrones set, but the natural story and script make it far superior to watch.  This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but you sit there entranced by this.  You feel the emotional heartbreak of the community by the discovery of the disease which is destroying their way of life.  The film focuses on the two brothers, which brings you into caring for both of them, while they continue their 40 year argument which we have to fill in the blanks of because the film makers rightly don’t tell us the full story, they expect you to use your brain.

Sigurður Sigurjónsson as Gummi and Theodór Júlíusson as Kiddi give you the best performances of the year so far, shut up I watch a lot of movies, and deserve your attention through the running time and afterwards.  Yes these are middle-aged men going through a horrid time, and even in the despair of the finale there is a huge feeling of hope for both of them.  Seriously worth checking out when you can, in Dublin, Ireland you can treat yourself to an evening in the IFI and really make it a great night.  Movies like this, which stir emotions and make you look at your own life, as well as entertain you, they are very few and far between, so make the most of this excellent drama.

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