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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

RAMS (PG) - 126 minutes

There’s no pulling the wool over the Grimurson brothers’ eyes.

When it comes to breeding a rare flock of sheep – the Dorset Horn – there is none better. It is in their DNA.

Each year, Colin (Sam Neill) and Les (Michael Caton) battle it out for best ram in the Mt Barker region of WA, something all locals hold in high regard.

Highly competitive, the pair has set up their operations adjacent to one another, but they haven’t spoken to one another in 40 years.

They are stubborn and unrelenting.

In fact, they are both loners and communication – not just with each other, but with their neighbours – is not their strong suit.

The basis of their feud is unknown.

Then a shock discovery by Colin changes the fortunes of the entire community.

A highly infectious disease – Ovine Johne’s Disease or OJD – has for the first time made its way to this part of Australia.

All sheep will have to be destroyed and rigorous quarantine measures undertaken.

Further, best case scenario, it will be two years before the animals can be reintroduced into the region.

The brothers are particularly badly affected.

They’re not aided by an Agriculture Department official – De Vries (Leon Ford) – with a tin ear.

Les, always prone to heavy drinking, imbibes even more.

Colin hatches a secret plan.

Neill, in particular, is outstanding as the younger sibling.

His silences and expressions are as informative as his punctuated dialogue.

Caton provides a strong, combative counterpoint.

I also appreciated the empathetic portrayal of the vet and judge, Kat, by Miranda Richardson.

Wayne Blair presents as a fun-loving knockabout bloke, Lionel, Colin’s mate.

The landscape is wonderful and the cinematography by Steve Arnold breathtaking.

The score by Antony Partos gives the piece a nice tempo as director Jeremy Sims (Last Cab to Darwin) gives RAMS plenty of room to breathe.

The Icelandic film upon which this is based, released in 2015, was noteworthy.

This too – with its decidedly Aussie sensibilities, as captured by writer Jules Duncan – hits the mark nicely, even if some of the humour was twee and the film went on a tad too long.

Rated PG, it scores a 7 to 7½ out of 10.


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