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Friday, April 11, 2008

SON OF RAMBOW (2007) - Garth Jennings

There have been a lot of very serious and grim films coming out recently. Most of what I’ve seen so far have been serious, dour dramas with the occasional appalling comedy. When I found out I was going to see Garth Jennings’ Son of Rambow, I must admit I was less than ecstatic about it. The film looked a little twee and something I wouldn’t really be into. Oh, how wrong I was. It’s a brilliantly charming and hilarious movie that really brings a feeling of nostalgia for those days you used to run around the park shooting at imaginary enemies hiding behind trees.

Hobbit-named William Proudfoot is the only son of a mother who belongs to a religious sect named the Plymouth Brethren. Their beliefs prohibit William from watching television, films and listening to music, all of which are a corrupting influence. Because of this, William is somewhat of a pariah in school. On the plus side, William has developed a rich imagination and draws constantly. He becomes the target of Lee Carter who is also a pariah, but because of his rebellious attitude. The two boys develop a strange relationship which turns into a friendship when Lee recruits William for a film he wants to make for a competition. William gets his first taste of pop culture when he accidentally witnesses First Blood, and becomes obsessed with making a movie where he plays the titular Son of Rambow. As word spreads of the boys’ project, other students want to become involved with the film. But as the cast and crew inflates, Lee becomes a little disenchanted and the boys’ friendship is put to the test.

Like Be Kind, Rewind before it, Son of Rambow is a film about how imagination and ingenuity can create films that everyone loves. You don’t need to have a Hollywood budget to make something entertaining. It’s all about the boys’ love for films (or in this case, one film) and the joy creating a film of their own brings to their mundane lives. It’s a difficult concept to pull off, especially considering the central characters are kids, but Jennings does an excellent job of avoiding sentimentality and retaining a very funny sense of humour. You can see the director does have a vivid imagination himself, as some scenes take place inside William’s head, and the film splits into a mix of live-action and animation. It’s a great way of carrying the idea of a child’s imagination running wild, while also ensuring the film doesn’t lose it’s innocence with a load of CGI.

The acting from the two principal actors is excellent. William, played by Bill Milner, is cast brilliantly as a small, extremely fragile-looking kid who comes out of his shell with a vengeance. He’s tossed around quite violently as the boys attempt to create the stunts seen in First Blood, but while these stunts are clearly exaggerated, they’re very funny, and Milner pulls them off very well. The real revelation, however, is Will Poulter who plays Lee Carter. The kid is one hell of an actor, and has real screen presence. It’s very easy to play a bully, as the writing does the acting for the actor. However, Carter may be tough on the outside, but he’s quite fragile on the inside, and Poulter is absolutely convincing at portraying that. In some ways, the two characters are mirror images of each other. And the casting is inspired, as their relationship is completely realistic.

There’s not much else that needs to be said about Son of Rambow. It’s a very, very charming little film, and something that should be seen by everyone. It’d take a cold-hearted cynic not to be moved by the film, which skilfully avoids sentimentality and schmaltz and is genuinely very funny.


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