Producers: Janelle Landers and Aidan O’Bryan Director: Jeremy Sims Screenplay: Jules Duncan Cast: Sam Neill, Michael Caton, Miranda Richardson, Asher Keddie, Wayne Blair, Leon Ford and Will McNeill Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Two brothers on adjacent sheep ranches in western Australia haven’t spoken for years, but they’re brought together by a couple of crises—a disease that threatens their flocks and a nearby wildfire–in Jeremy Sims’s Down Under remake of Grímur Hákonarson’s 2015 film “Hrútar.”
The crusty old duo are Colin and Les Grimurson (Sam Neill and Michael Caton). The latter is the older brother—a crotchety, angry alcoholic with a short fuse. The former is more laid-back and benign, and fearful of his brother’s rages. One of the few times they see one another face-to-face is at the local “ram-of-show” competition.
Unfortunately, this year’s event—where Kat (Miranda Richardson) is one of the judges in a contest that comes down to the two brothers—reveals that the local herds are infected with a dangerously contagious ailment. That leads the Agriculture Department, under its fussily officious local head De Vries (Leon Ford) to order that all the animals be killed.
The impact on the economy is sketched in a few conversations with locals (Asher Keddie and Will McNeill), but the emphasis is on Colin. Rather than having his sheep hauled off by the authorities, he kills them himself and disposes of the carcasses. Kat and De Vries are surprised, but what would astonish them more is that he’s made some changes in the house to let him to hide a few of the sheep that he’s particularly fond of there. That becomes a mite difficult when Kat, who’s developed an interest in him, comes calling. It’s also complicated when Colin has to take a passed-out Les in for a night, and when both lend a hand to volunteers fighting that wildfire.
One doesn’t have to be a genius to discern where “Rams” is headed. This isn’t a tragedy, and reconciliation is in the cards. But the film is fortunate to have Neill and Caton on hand to play the feuding brothers, and though Richardson seems a little uncertain as Kat and Ford’s perpetually overwrought posturing can get tiring, for the most part the supporting cast does a respectable job.
So does the technical team. Steve Arnold’s widescreen cinematography makes the locations look wonderful, and Clayton Jauncey’s production design, while hardly glamorous, is convincing. Marcus Darcey’s editing takes its time, and Antony Partos’ score can feel saccharine.
But that doesn’t matter much, because though this is as manipulative a movie as they come, the team of Neill and Caton saves it from getting too sloppy. In the end it’s as gentle, and enjoyable to watch, as a lamb at play in the fields.