Son of Rambow

Son of Rambow

2008, PG-13, 96 min. Directed by Garth Jennings. Starring Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Hynes, Jules Sitruk, Ed Westwick, Neil Dudgeon.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 16, 2008

A congregant of a strict (and unspecified) religious sect in the early-Eighties, young Will Proudfoot (Milner) is a runty innocent mourning the sudden death of his father. His only solace lies in the outpourings of his imagination – in a scribbled flipbook, or his Bible, transformed by a box of Crayolas. Will has never seen TV, never watched a movie; when his pop-culture cherry gets popped, it's no kiddie pool splashing for him – he goes straight for the deep end, by way of Sylvester Stallone's jungle warrior in First Blood. Actually, it's an inadvertent baptism; Will stumbles upon a bootlegged VHS of the film while taking his first-ever steps toward making a friend. He couldn't have chosen a worse influence – Lee Carter (Poulter) is a fast-talking, chipmunk-cheeked pickpocket who's more or less raising himself. Borrowing a video camera, the two boys, both terribly starved for male affection, band together to make a homegrown sequel to First Blood called Son of Rambow. Will and Lee's makeshift special effects play endearingly daft (unlike the similarly themed Be Kind Rewind, the effects here feel authentically – and, in this case, preadolescently – DIY), and it's no surprise when the rest of their school starts to take notice. Pretty soon everyone's clamoring to be a part of the production, including a French exchange student named Didier (Sitruk). He's a red-booted New Waver and a veritable rock star to all the British squares in their school uniforms, and while he could have been a one-note gag – or simply an excuse for the film's terrific musical cues of the Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees – the filmmakers gently tweak Didier to illustrate that everyone is wounded, everyone is misunderstood, and everyone secretly wants to play a ninja in the movies. Those filmmakers, by the way, are Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith, longtime London-based creative partners who have produced some of the past two decades' most inventive music videos. They also collaborated for the 2005 adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – essentially a buddy comedy that didn't entirely work but thematically precursored Son of Rambow's central charm. Yes, there's the Eighties nostalgia and post-Wes Anderson oddball beats and deadpan timing (fun, if a little indie de rigueur), but the real pleasure of the piece is in its uncommon, unaffected portrayal of male intimacy. Lee and Will take a knife to their palms to become blood brothers, but they needn't have bothered: They're already bonded for life over their shared love of make-believe and a same broken-heartedness over being abandoned. Although it isn't being sold as such, Son of Rambow makes a great family film, so long as parents don't mind the occasional cuss word and they take a moment to explain to Junior that cigarette smoking played a little differently in Lee Carter's Thatcher-era, pastoral, and parentless Britain. It's worth the talk in order to share this marvelous film – funny and sweet and guaranteed to flood you with good feeling. (For an interview with the filmmakers, see "Look, Ma, All Hands," May 16.)

More Son of Rambow
Screens Top 10s
Screens Top 10s
The Chronicle's film critics talk about their favorite movies of the year

Jan. 2, 2009

Look, Ma, All Hands
Look, Ma, All Hands
Hammer & Tongs on why their Eighties-era childhood epic 'Son of Rambow' is the anti-CGI

Marc Savlov, May 16, 2008

More Garth Jennings Films
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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Fans of the novel can exhale, finally; panic is unwarranted. On the other hand, audiences unfamiliar with Douglas Adams’ bizarre world may wonder what all the fuss is about.

Marc Savlov, April 29, 2005

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Son of Rambow, Garth Jennings, Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Hynes, Jules Sitruk, Ed Westwick, Neil Dudgeon

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