Sam Neill and Michael Caton star as rival sheep farmers — who are also long-estranged brothers — in “Rams,” a remake of the award-winning Icelandic film of the same name. It’s now available to rent or buy online.
The official synopsis: “Brothers Colin and Les have been fighting for decades. Both are award-winning sheep farmers, but when disaster strikes and disease threatens their flocks, will they be able to work together to save their sheep, their legacy, and their community?”
In the trailer, we see several sheep being rounded up and taken away to be euthanized due to a highly contagious disease. In the film, Colin (Neill) kills some of his sheep himself (this is reportedly shown offscreen) rather than have the authorities do it for him. But, he also decides to ignore the local regulations and hide several of his prized sheep in his house.
Whether the hilarity of hiding sheep in his bathroom outweighs the heartbreak of losing most of his flock will depend on the individual viewer.
While the original Icelandic film was bleaker — critic Sam Inglis described the remake to Moviepaws as a “sunnier” version of the 2015 movie both literally and figuratively — critics don’t like it as much as the original. At HeyUGuys, Inglis writes, “In 2016, Icelandic online newspaper Kjarninn voted ‘Rams,’ released only the year before, as the second greatest film their country had ever produced. I doubt the same will be happening in Australia for this remake.”)
The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern writes — presumably about the first half of the film — “the fate of the sheep is just as heartbreaking as it was in Iceland. (Their eyes could melt the hardest hearts.)”
However, Kristy Puchko of Pajiba — who hadn’t seen the Icelandic film — found the remake “fun and heartwarming.” She writes: “The original film takes a grim path for its final act, which involves a brutal blizzard. Its Aussie remake switches ice for fire, rolling out a catastrophe-centered climax that tests the brothers’ mettle amid a familiar landscape set aflame. But fret not, because this ‘Rams’ aims for feel-good over faithful, delivering a finale that’s suitably sweet.”
As Empire magazine notes, “Jeremy Sims’ update is set in the sun-kissed region of Mount Barker, South Australia, and the warmer climes and relaxed national identity make for a gentler, broader time. … It may lack the toughness of the original, but Sims’ film is an easygoing, likeable comedy.”
Meanwhile, The Guardian calls it “warm, funny, tender and down-to-earth.”
Other differences between the two films, as The AV Club notes, the sheep in the remake have Ovine Johne’s disease (OJD) a fatal and highly contagious infection of the small intestine; In the original, the sheep had scrapie, which is a fatal neurodegenerative disease.
The AV Club’s overall verdict: “Those who haven’t seen [the Icelandic film] ‘Rams’ may not know what they’re missing. Those who have will be left cold.”