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RAMS: 3 STARS. “a study in changing time, loneliness and masculinity.”

“Rams,” the new ovine comedy starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton and now available on VOD, isn’t just a wild ‘n woolly sheep’s tale. The Western Australia-set tale, a remake of an Icelandic film of the same name, is a study in changing time, loneliness and masculinity.

Stubborn, estranged brothers Colin (Neill) and Les (Caton) haven’t spoken in more than twenty years. Their farms butt up against one another, their sheep from the family bloodline, but, despite everything that bonds them, the siblings are virtual strangers.

Their lives intersect when one of Les’s rams is diagnosed with a deadly and highly communicable disease. Erring on the side of caution, authorities order a purge. All the sheep in the area must be put down. That would end the spread of the disease but it would also end the prized family bloodline and their way of life. Les gives up hope but Colin hangs on to a few of his sheep, who he calls “my girls,” hiding them in his house. “They’re not infected,” he says. They’re fine.”

Will blood, or in this case, the bloodline, be thicker than water?

“Rams” feels like it might be a riff on a down-under riff on a British feel-good flick, but there’s more to it than that. Although gently paced, the humor is acerbic and the action unpredictable.

It is buoyed by strong-silent-type performances from Neill and Caton that ground the story in its time and place, bringing a sense of connection to the men who inhabit the story. The story is specific in its setting but universal in its look at family, masculinity and legacy.

“Rams” is a feel-good movie, but it is a thoughtful one that doesn’t stoop to sheep… er…. ah… cheap theatrics to get its message across.

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