SON OF RAMBOW
Will (Bill Milner) is the young son of a fatherless Plymouth Brethren family; their strict moral code means that Will has never been allowed to mix with the other 'worldlies,' listen to music or watch TV. When Lee Carter (Will Poulter), the school terror and maker of home movies exposes Will to a pirate copy of Rambo: First Blood, Will is easily convinced to be the stuntman in Lee's next project. Will's imaginative little brain also dreams up elaborate schemes to keep his partnership with Lee a secret from the Brethren. They start to make their action movie but after the arrival of French exchange student, Didier Revol (Jules Sitruk), their unique friendship is pushed to breaking point.
Review by Louise Keller:
It may not all work but Son of Rambow is a totally original and really sweet film with an ultra soft heart. It's the story of an unlikely friendship between two impressionable young boys whose exposure to Rambo: First Blood inspires them in different but connecting ways. Garth Jennings, who directed the wonderful The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, directs this, his first screenplay with an appealing sense of innocence and wonder. Young newcomer Bill Milner has loads of appeal in the central role of daydreamer Will Proudfoot, whose world changes when he encounters Will Poulter's rebellious Lee Carter. It's a story about being adrift from a solid family unit and one in which imagination plays a pivotal role. Religion, guilt, rebellion and feeling isolated all play a part and as a result our journey is an emotional one.
When we first meet the two boys, their backgrounds and personalities are clearly described. Milner's Will is reading a bible passage to his Brethren family outside a cinema that is playing the film in question, while inside the theatre, Poulter's Lee watches the screen. The boys' first meeting is equally incongruous in the austere corridor outside the headmaster's office, but soon from being blackmailed into being stuntman for the film Lee is shooting with his brother's camera, Will becomes a willing participant. The amateur film intended for a young filmmaker's competition becomes the catalyst for both boys as it serves as springboard for their imagination. When the shooting begins, so do the home-made stunts which include sliding down an embankment and falling out of a tree. There's a shift in control, as Will becomes the driver of the project, inspiring Lee by his imaginative sketches.
There are parallels with the struggles and conflicts that both boys face at home. And there's the arrival of Jules Sitruk's bored, visiting French boy Didier, whose red pointy boots, striking streaked hair, black eyes and silver earrings make him as sought after as a rock star. He too, wants to be part of the movie. But the complexities of real life intrude into the make-believe nature of the film as the close friendship between Will and Lee. As pressures mount and situations explode, the boys are forced to grow up. I shed a little tear towards the end of this whimsical tale as truths are recognized and decisions taken.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I may be insensitive to the charms of this English boys' movie in which friendship and loyalties of various kinds are tested, but there is too much manipulative material here to grab me. The two boys at the centre of the story are well played by Bill Milner and Will Poulter, but this isn't enough. The story is pretty thin anyway, but it limps along and often gets stuck in a scene of no relevance.
The friendship of the two boys is the central element, but the loyalties of both to their families and their respective sets of values are also important. I was not so engaged as to be moved by these elements and felt impatient at the lack of dramatic pace.
In its provincial setting, the film gives the impression that it is taking us inside a time warp in the 80s when movies like Rambo: First Blood (1982) and Yentl (1983) were playing at cinemas. But there's little to entertain us in that respect, except for one shot of a cinema audience facing the camera while watching the screen, each one with a lit cigarette dangling from their lips.
My main reservation about the film is its almost total lack of dramatic tension, until the third act, when the boys' friendship fractures. But the jokes about the two elderly characters -one male the other female - seem cruel rather than witty, and the mother (Jessica Stevenson) has the thankless role of one dimensional character. Her home seems like an empty shell and there is little dramatic value in the scenes that take place here.
Perhaps unfairly, I also find grating the practice where a film within a film is being made but we never see much of the film that is finally shown to the characters. It's another sleight of hand by the filmmakers which cheats the audience.
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SON OF RAMBOW (PG)
CAST: Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Zofia Brooks, Neil Dudgeon, Tallulah Evans, Adam Godley, Jessica Stevenson, Diane Leach, Jules Sitruk
PRODUCER: Nick Goldsmith
DIRECTOR: Garth Jennings
SCRIPT: Garth Jennings
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jess Hall
EDITOR: Dominic Leung
MUSIC: Joby Talbot
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Joel Collins
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures Australia
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 4, 2008