There was a period of time in Australian cinema where the funding bodies decided that the way forward was for Australian filmmakers to make outrageous comedies. If you discussed the idea with them it would always come back to them talking about films like The Castle. The thing they seemed to miss though was that The Castle was a very different film to something like You And Your Stupid Mate.
While the latter was idiotic to the point of stupidity, The Castle’s mixed comedy and drama and above all had heart. If you look at the comedies that Australians have loved over the years, films like Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert, they are all movies that have heart as their major ingredient.
Somewhere along the line, it feels somebody has listened because it clearly looks like Rams will be Australia’s highest grossing local product of 2020. Having viewed the film, I can say that it uses The Castle recipe to a tee. It is a film that most Australians can not only relate to, but the film also does indeed have heart.
A localised remake of a Scandinavian film, Rams is set in a remote Western Australian town that is known for its unique bloodline of award-winning sheep. While many of the town’s local farmers, such as the determined Angela (Asher Keddie) and the kind-hearted Lionel (Wayne Blair) try their best to win awards for their flocks, the prizes normally go to brothers Colin (Sam Neil) and Les (Michael Caton).
However, the relationship between the two brothers is not as it should be. They haven’t spoken to each other for decades, despite the fact they share the same farm and dog, they go out of their way to avoid each other. That war though becomes tested after local vet Kat (Miranda Richardson) detects a rare disease in the sheep that leads to them having to be destroyed.
With the Government moving in, and the town and its major industry on its knees, Colin and Les might have to find a way to overcome their anger towards each other to ensure that their farm survives.
Despite its Scandinavian heritage, there is something uniquely Australian with director Jeremy Sims’ version of the film. Aided by first time feature screenwriter Jules Duncan’s screenplay the film explores the trials and tribulations of a country community in such way that as an audience member, I found myself laughing at one moment and close to tears the next. The screenplay gives city folk an inside look at how devastating an event like this can be on a country town, in a way that we rarely ever get to see on-screen.
While the film does try to infuse some storylines for the periphery characters, the main interest here lies in the relationship between Colin and Les, and the betrayal Colin feels when Kat reports the outbreak to the Government. The tension generated between those relationships carry Rams along in such a way that you never lose interest.
Enhancing the film even further are the performances of both Sam Neil and Michael Caton. Caton is in award winning form as he portrays the emotionally broken and alcoholic Les, while Neil is at his best portraying a character that is a mess of emotion throughout the film, not that he would ever show that publicly.
Rams is easily one of the best films of 2020. It has emotion, it has heart and knows the perfect time to replace its humour with touching dramatic scenes. Jeremy Sims has just released a film that is destined to become an Aussie favourite alongside Australian film classics Babe and The Castle.