Icelandic director Grímur Hákonarson has been making films since 2002, but his filmography  comprises only two features.  After being nominated for an Edda Award for Best Screenplay for his 2010 debut Summerland, his second film has won Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2015, in addition to Audience Awards at the Tromsø and Transilvania International Film Festivals.

Rams (original language title: Hrútar) follows farmers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson), estranged brothers who also live next door to each other.  When an incurable disease threatens their beloved sheep, the two work together to prevent the authorities from killing them.

Based in rural Iceland, Starla Brandth Grøvlen’s simple and effective cinematography beautifully captures the isolation of the film’s farming community, while complementing Hákonarson’s direction and screenplay. The dialogue conveys the struggles of being a farmer, while his direction focuses on the solitude of the characters.  The strained relationship between the two brothers and Gummi’s lonely moments in his home exacerbate the theme of emotional and physical separation.  The only affection the brothers display is towards their prized flock and seeing them reluctantly surrendered strikes an emotional chord.

A meaningful drama with sparse moments of comedy, Rams is essentially a tale of determination and forgiveness.  From the offset, the audience sees Gummi and Kiddi are inexplicably estranged yet somehow, they seem to bring out the worst in each other.  Júlíusson’s outlandish and emotionally driven Kiddi is the prouder, more reckless of the two while Sigurjónsson’s calmer and subdued Gummi is more respectful towards others.  However, their mutual plight sees them quietly rebel from the authorities, leading to a tender and unexpected moment of brotherhood.

Overall, Rams is witty, tender and touching.  An unexpected yet engaging surprise.

Rams is out in UK cinemas on 5th February.

Director: Grímur Hákonarson
Stars: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson
Runtime: 93 minutes
Country: Iceland

Film Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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