Nordic noir? Nah, more like Nordic baaaahhh. Look, the sheep are listed with the human cast in the end credits. I mean, of course the dog is credited, you always have to credit the dog, but here the sheep portray characters with different names; they’re not just playing themselves, okay? Rams — which was Iceland’s official submission for this year’s Oscars (it didn’t get a nomination) and winner of the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes last year — exists somewhere on the spectrum between “fascinating and unclassifiably odd” and “could almost be a parody of an arthouse film except it’s ultimately too moving to be a joke.” In a remote Icelandic valley, elderly brothers and sheep farmers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson: The Sea) live and work next door to each other… and they haven’t spoken in decades; the dog carries written messages back and forth when communication absolutely cannot be avoided. But now the spectre of a terrible sheep disease looms over the valley, threatening their livelihoods and those of all of their neighbors, too, in a land where his sheep are the keepers of a man’s pride. If they lose their sheep, which is literally all either man has, Gummi and Kiddi might be forced to deal with each other again, which would be beyond intolerable. With his second narrative feature, writer-director Grímur Hákonarson deftly paints broad strokes of a complicated relationship using the canvas of a cold, snowy, desolate landscape, and splashes it with jolts of black humor that hit at all the right moments; sentimentality might threaten to seep in here, but it never does. This is a one-of-a-kind film: you’ve never seen anything like it before, and you won’t be able to predict where it goes. Yet it is satisfyingly universal in what it has to say about family, feuds, and the pigheadedness that keeps people apart. And the sheep who witness it all.
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