Sigurour Sigurjonsson stars in “Rams,” a funny and poignant comedy about Icelandic sheep farmers. (Courtesy Cohen Media Group)

Sigurour Sigurjonsson stars in “Rams,” a funny and poignant comedy about Icelandic sheep farmers. (Courtesy Cohen Media Group)

Icelandic sheep farming comes to life with laughs in ‘Rams’

“Rams” starts with a baa and ends with a blizzard that seems to have blown in from Norse mythology. In between, there’s enough sheep farming and sibling rivalry to qualify the movie as a Biblical saga.

Written and directed by Grimur Hakonarson (“Summerland”), this Icelandic dramedy is droll and truthful.

It begins as a Nordic quirky-village taly in which the only head-butting is the work of long-feuding humans.

In a farming valley in Iceland, Gummi (Sigurour Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) are 60ish brothers who live in adjacent houses but haven’t spoken to each other for 40 years. (They communicate through letters delivered by a courier dog.)

Each man breeds sheep from the same ancient, prize-winning lineage and derives immense pride from his animals.

At the annual best-ram contest, Kiddi’s ram beats Gummi’s for first place. Irate, Gummi stealthily inspects Kiddi’s animal. He determines, correctly, that it is infected with scrapie, a deadly neurodegenerative disease. Soon, authorities order the slaughter of all area sheep — a devastating sentence for the farmers.

Kiddi gets drunk and shoots his rifle at Gummi’s window. Gummi, the more civil and intellectual brother, concocts a scheme to thwart the slaughter.

When authorities close in, the brothers must dump their grudges and join forces to save their livelihood and purpose.

Then the story becomes a thriller and a journey through striking terrain and ruthless weather toward a dramatic climax.

Even though it widens and deepens, the movie has too small a scale to be a knockout, and Hakonarson doesn’t always shift tones in ways conducive to credibility.

Still, it’s a unique indie charmer that’s funny, sad and moving.

The world of Icelandic sheep farming comes to life with impressive detail by Hakonarson, who has made documentaries.

As a dry comedy, the film is consistently amusing (even repeated sight gags with Gummi naked in the bathroom don’t wear thin) and sometimes stellar (a bit involving a tractor and a drunken brother is especially memorable).

There also are equally valuable quiet moments. In one scene, Gummi, his world crumbling, puts on a jacket, cooks an elegant Christmas meal and dines alone.

At climax time, Hakonarson aims for something primal as he addresses sibling rivalry, human need, basic survival, and not insignificantly, the companionship of sheep. He almost pulls it off.

The actors, both well known in Iceland, are completely credible as stubborn, lonely farm kin who talk to their animals.

The sheep — Hakonarson has said he conducted an area-wide talent search — aren’t bad, either.

REVIEW
Rams
Three stars
Starring: Sigurour Sigurjonsson, Theodor Juliusson
Written and directed by: Grimur Hakonarson
Rated R
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

farmingGrimur HakonarsonIcelandMovies and TVRamssheepSigurour SigurjonssonTheodor Juliusson

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said Friday he expected San Francisco to enter the purple tier within days. (Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Media Co)
SF still in the red but expects move into purple tier ‘some time soon’

Four more counties moved into highest COVID-19 risk category by state

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

Cal Junior Quarterback Chase Garbers completed 28 of 42 passes 315 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions in his last game against Oregon State. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The Big Game: Stanford at Cal

What: The 123rd Big Game When: Friday, 1:30 p.m. Where: Memorial Stadium,… Continue reading

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

Most Read