Rated: R for language and brief graphic nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: February 26, 2016 Released by: Cohen Media Group
This Icelandic import (subtitled) from Grimur Hakonarson is delicately poised world cinema. Unfortunately, it wasn't able to land a Best Foreign-Language nomination at this year's Oscars. After deservedly capturing high honors at other film festivals, including the prestigious Cannes.
Rams (or Hrutar) features native stage thespians Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson as long-time estranged frenemy bearded sheep farming brothers. Who virtually are next-door neighbors.
Júlíusson's alcohol swilling and rifle wielding Kiddi and Sigurjónsson's witty Gummi begin to share a mutual concern after Kiddi is victorious in a local ram competition. The younger brother learns that Kiddi's prized animal is infected with a dreaded degenerative disease ('scrapie' has symptoms of severe weakening, involuntary shaking, paralysis and ultimately death). So, they must consider the resentment against one another for the sake of the area flocks (some of which are secretly stashed in a basement), themselves, as well as the farming community as a whole (a national economic dependency).
There are some deadpan humorous bits involving these free-spirited rascals including a gate. But, a dark comedy gives way to more dramatic, even taut underpinnings that may have some reaching for their hankies once local veterinarians are called in and Gummi and Kiddi must deal with what's kept them apart for four decades.
What Hakonarson does so well is balance this all out with precision in working with his technical staff, especially his editor, lenser, and composer (with vividly suggestive overtones) against a distinctive gelid wintry environment, especially when one brother looks to be in a dire hypothermic, blanketed state.
The suppression and rigors never deter Sigurjonsson and Juliusson from etching deeply felt performances of disparate of testy individuals who must come to their senses in a secluded valley. A genre hybrid which at times has the survivalist flair of The Revenant is able to lock an on-looker in with far more empathy than expected given the subject matter. Notably from an understated poignancy and potency to captivate broadly and influentially.