Movie review / ‘Rams’ (PG)

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“Rams” (PG) *** and a half

FIVE years ago, Grímur Hákonarson made a film about two Icelandic sheep-farming brothers who, after not having spoken to each other in 40 years, suddenly have to cope with an animal-health issue.

That film combined scratchy comedy with two major issues. Now director Jeremy Sims relocates Hákonarson’s cold-climate sheep story to Australia’s rather warmer climate (Mt Barker, the WA version, not the Adelaide Hills one, and only one degree north of Canberra’s latitude).

Does it work? Well, any movie about sheep is bound to strike a melodious chord in Australia, isn’t it? 

Jules Duncan’s feature-film writing debut reflects Australian farming humour well enough without making comedy the film’s principal theme. 

There’s bushfires. There’s dusty landscape. And scorn poured generally over merino sheep. Indeed, the ram playing a major role in the movie is a Dorset Horn named Locke from NSW, in the film, a fictional wool and meat breed invented for the film and named “Kalgan Horn”.

Colin (Sam Neill) has a top ram. But the ram from brother Les’ (Michael Caton) next door (100 metres) farm won the prize at the Mt Barker Show this year where Kat (Miranda Richardson), the vet judging the sheep classes, didn’t pick up that it had OJD. Colin picked it up. And from that point the film gets pleasantly serious. 

Ovine Johne’s Disease is a strain of a chronic wasting disease caused by a bacterium that can occur in cattle, sheep, camelids, goats and deer. If it’s in a flock, there’s only one course open. Euthanasia. A typical herd clean-up program may take five years or longer. Australia is relatively free of it.

I’m no expert on OJD, but I know from breeding alpacas that Colin’s technique won’t diagnose it. Only a vet can do that. The film pokes a modicum of fun at Ag. Department officials who come to the brothers’ farms to monitor compliance.

And that’s about it.

At all cinemas

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"Rams" (PG) *** and a half
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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