Directed by: Garth Jennings
Premise: In the mid 1980s, a pair of boys (Will Poulter and Bill Milner), one a rebellious outsider raised by his brother and the other the well behaved son in a super-religious family, see the film First Blood and begin to make a sequel with a home video camera.
What Works: There is a small niche of films about the joy that cinema can bring for audiences and filmmakers. Pictures like Sullivan’s Travels, Adaptation, and Be Kind Rewind satirize Hollywood while casting a loving eye on the filmmaking process, and others like Scream, The Dreamers, and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers explore the relationship between the cinema and life. Son of Rambow hits right in between these two categories and nails it perfectly. Rather than just recapitulating the original film, Son of Rambow uses First Blood as a starting point and explores how the film spurs the boy’s imaginations. The creativity of each of the junior filmmakers is borne out in the process and each deals with their personal problems through their film. The relationship between the two boys is as real as any seen between two prepubescents on film and the development of their friendship is organic and never feels forced. The tomfoolery of the boys, the recreation of the film, and their misadventures at school are very funny in a smart way. The story has some great supporting characters, namely a New Wave foreign exchange student (Jules Sitruk) who is adored by all the girls at school and the film is able to unify all of its major and supporting elements. Something else the film does extraordinarily is to satirize the clichés of the Hollywood success story seen in a million other films, sending the boys through the process of starting as a nobody, then gaining fame and having success endanger their relationships and their art, and eventually finding a balance between their success and their creativity. The technical craft of the film is at a surprisingly high level. Despite being a modestly scaled film, Son of Rambow has some terrific cinematography and in spots it uses sound quite effectively.
What Doesn’t: Those expecting a lot of references to the film may be disappointed, as the picture is not so much about recreating the original film as it is about the boys discovering their creativity and dealing with the real world through fantasy.
Bottom Line: There have been quite a few films about the love of cinema and Son of Rambow ranks among the best. It is a rare gem of a movie that combines high cinematic craft with meaningful substance, a great story, and an all around good nature that is very endearing.
Episode: #193 (June 15, 2008)