Son of Rambow takes place on a long English summer in the early 1980’s, as two young boys quixotically set forth in developing a short film project for submission into a BBC filmmakers’ competition. From the beginning, the film is the type of inspirational story that one would find in a Chris Van Allsberg children’s book or Terry Gilliam’s brilliant urban opus, The Fisher King.
As the sentimental story begins, Will Proudfoot (played by Bill Milner), the eldest son of a fatherless Plymouth Brethren family, has never been allowed to mix with the outside world, listen to music or watch TV, because of his family’s strict religious code. He “breaks free” of his constrictive life by creating long-form comics, that he pieces together into flip-page books. He soon meets his “creative partner” in the form of Lee Carter (Will Poulter), the school terror and amateur filmmaker, who uses video to escape the recklessly free lifestyle he and his older brother lead, because of an absentee mother, who travels back and forth to Spain.
After Lee exposes Will to a pirated copy of Rambo: First Blood, Will’s mind is blown wide open and he’s easily convinced to play a stuntman in Lee’s “daring” remake of the film, which to this point, Lee has been grifting and swindling to help fund.
Will’s fertile imagination is given the chance to blossom during filmmaking, as he injects a more original storyline into Lee’s, at first, straight remake. They decide to make a story about the “Son of Rambow”. The story progresses as the two outcasts work diligently on the project, make a name for themselves at school as movie makers, and create a genuine bond that is later tested in dramatic and dangerous ways.
Son of Rambow is a touching story of friendship, creativity and child wonderment, that makes a real statement about the importance of the arts in children’s lives. Writer and director Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) creates a world-within-a-world for the fearless boys, who are subjected to riggers not unlike what would happen on real-life film sets. But it’s done in such a parodic way, its hilarious.
The story is also helped along by the crisp cinematography work of Jess Hall (who lensed Hot Fuzz), which help highlight physical details like the beautiful and fearful eyes of Will’s mom Mary (played by Jessica Stevenson), who counsels Will against his recent “ungodly” activities. There’s also a rich cast of teenaged “movie fans” and the “pop-star-like” Didier (Jules Sitruk), who does an impromptu screen test for Will, in order to secure a leading role in the action film.
Son of Rambow recently won the public prize at the 61st Annual Locarno Film Festival in Europe, and is on DVD this week.
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