- Actors: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving
- Director: Grímur Hákonarson
- Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Subtitles: English
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: R
- Studio: Cohen Media Group
- Release Date: June 28, 2016
- Run Time: 93 minutes
American audiences accustomed to narrative-driven cinema may have a difficult time with Rams, not because it is lacking in plot but because the characters ultimately take precedence. The Icelandic dramedy actually has an original premise to lean on, but the resolution to this clever scenario is not the filmmaker’s priority. The events within the film service the characters and their ultimate arc, rather than the other way around. For those who can adjust or are more accustomed to this style of storytelling, Rams offers plenty of rewards. Those expecting the film to resolve the dilemma offered by the plot may find the conclusion less satisfying.
Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) is a sheep farmer living nearly entirely in the seclusion of a remote valley, despite having an immediate neighbor on his property. Living beside him is his brother, Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), but neither has spoken to each other in four decades. Both carry out their family tradition of raising their ancestral breed of sheep with pride, never speaking of the disagreement which split them apart after the death of their parents. Their rivalry is carried out in livestock competitions until a lethal disease infects Kiddi’s sheep and threatens the livestock in the entire valley.
Many are crippled by this sudden outbreak, but Kiddi and Gummi refuse to leave their way of life. Each has a plan for saving their prize rams and the famed sheep lineage, though they eventually must rely on each other to avoid discovery by the authorities. Kiddi’s reaction is more volatile, turning to his gun for protection and alcohol for comfort, whereas Gummi cleverly pretends to obey the laws demanding all stock be slaughtered, secretly hiding a prize few in the basement of his home.
The narrative is wisely simplified, slowing the pace and allowing for the subtleties of the characters to come to the forefront. This provides the film some of its deadpan humor, but it simultaneously fleshes them out in a way that we begin to care about them, despite their curmudgeonly demeanor and minimal dialogue. A great deal of the film’s success relies on the acting of the two leads, and their grizzled appearances help to make their solitude and career choices all the more believable. This is enhanced by the unforced way that the brothers are reunited, never feeling contrived or emotionally manipulative as one might expect from a Hollywood attempt at the same story.
The Blu-ray release includes an interview with the director, Grímur Hákonarson, as well as one of his earlier short films. There is also a theatrical trailer for the film.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10