Watching writer/director Garth Jennings' new film, I couldn't
help but recall the wonder and excitement I felt the first
time I devoured the movies that shaped my childhood. Leaving
the movie theater as a wee lad, I remember feeling as if
there was no end to the movie I had just seen. It continued
on in my mind, living inside me as the characters embodied
my actions. I believed wholeheartedly that I could pilot
a "piece of junk" through outer space with a wookie
as my copilot or that I could crack a whip in search of
the lost Ark.
sounds familiar to you then this lovable film will bring
you back to that time with a smile on your face and maybe
even a tear in your eye.
The film takes place just outside of England in 1982, right
around the time Stallone's socially-challenged Vietnam vet
was introduced to cinemas. It is indeed the movie First
Blood that brings two young boys together in an unlikely
friendship. Unlikely because they are worlds apart despite
living in the same town.
Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is an introverted loner who takes
refuge in drawing up an entire book of colorful stories.
He lives with his mother, younger sister and grandmother
who are all part of the Plymouth Brethren, a religious sect
that shuns worldliness, secular music, TV and movies. Then
there's freckled Lee Carter (Will Poulter), the thieving,
charismatic troublemaker at Will's school. His teachers
call him "the devil child" and yes he is a hellion
but right away we see that he is just as endearing as Will.
He lives with his much-older brother, Lawrence (Ed Westwick),
unchecked and on their own while his mother lives in Spain
with their stepdad. A situation ripe with mischief.
Lee runs a video piracy business at home for his brother
and has secretly decided to make a home movie himself. His
goal: to make it the best ever and enter it into the local
young filmmakers' contest. Lee finds an awe-struck ally
in the imaginative Will, who is soon recruited by Lee to
be his stunt double for an action movie he is making.
sees his first ever movie over at Lee's place, a pirated copy
of First Blood, well, it's all over! He becomes obsessed
with all things Rambo. He imagines himself as the "Son
of Rambow" (stay till the end of the credits for a funny
audio clip about the title) and enthusiastically immerses
himself in the character...literally. We
see Will jump from heights, fall from a tree and swing into
a lake all for the sake of the art. Both boys develop an indelible
bond as they become amateur cinematic collaborators.
But this wouldn't be the hilarious, touching and joyous film
that it is if all went well for our boys. When a busload of
French exchange students are dropped off at their school,
pretty boy Didier (Jules Sitruk) enters the scene. He captivates
the uniformed girls and boys with his black leather, red boots
and his new wave music, but provides a driving wedge between
the boys when he practically takes over production.
challenge is fellow Brethren brother Joshua (Neil Dudgeon)
outing his Will's forbidden celluloid adventures while horning
his way into his family, putting Will and his family in
danger of expulsion. But the most heart-wrenching of challenges
is of the hurt caused by the growing egos and stubborn pride
of both boys. You really want them to be the best of friends
and it breaks your heart when anything opposing that occurs.
Director Jennings (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
and his producing partner Nick Goldsmith really hit the
jackpot finding these two non-actors as their leads. They
really are perfectly cast and just flawless. I would imagine
that Jennings has reels of edited film of these boys that
didn't make the released cut.
supporting cast is excellent as well, particularly Jessica
Hynes as Will's devoted mother who patiently tries to relate
to his burgeoning backsliding. Little does she know that
as much as her son wants to be a good son, he also wants
to be the "Son of Rambow". Not only do the laugh-out-loud
scenes make the film but the quieter, character moments
add a sweet sincerity.
When I found out that the film is partly based on Jennings'
own childhood experiences of filmmaking, it made me love
the film all the more. No wonder the film has so much heart.
It can be seen in the writing and visual storytelling which
seem straight out of a fond reminiscing dream. His use of
scribbly graphic animation is used wisely, not overdone
but rather caters to Will's vivid imagination.
film is a wonderfully unpretentious reminder of the unlimited
possibilities of make believe. The only possible way to
not like this film is if you hated being a child and you
hate children. It's been a long time since I sat in the
theater and felt the same exuberance as the main characters
but this film did just that for me.