Son of Rambow
A film I have been waiting an eternity to see is finally released stateside, and overall is an enjoyable experience. Written and Directed by Garth Jennings, who also did the underrated Hitchhikers Guide adaptation, the title is a coming of age film of sorts, with a message of be yourself and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The plot follows two boys of completely different ilks. Will is a boy with a wild imagination, drawing through all of his textbooks, creating stories and characters to entertain himself as he is not allowed to watch TV due to the rules of his church and is forced to leave the classroom when the watch informational videos. Lee Carter is the exact opposite of Will. Rambunctious and a troublemaker at school, Lee gets thrown into the hall about the same time Will has to leave and the two slowly begin to create an odd friendship.
Lee Carter dreams of winning a young filmmakers contest called, Screen Test, while originally hoping to use Will as his stuntman before realizing his imagination is too great a thing to waste. They quickly begin to plot out film homage to First Blood after Will accidentally gets his first taste of the wonders of film in the form of Sylvester Stallone, naming his character in the film the Son of Rambo. The film shines when these two are concocting their film, recording crazy stunts, creating imaginative set pieces and props, all while throwing caution to the wind and risking possible life and limb.
The film has some odd subplots to work around though. Early on in the film, a bus load of French Exchange students arrive and all of the students gravitate towards an eccentric product of the 80’s named Didier. Didier’s story is composed of just glimpses of the idiosyncrasies of his following for over half the film before coming involved with Will and the production. When Will and him get wrapped up, the film momentarily turns into a very odd and weird examination of school popularity with some underground club environment with kids getting tweaked out on caffeine and candy; really just odd and out of nowhere. There is also an odd subplot between Lee and his older brother that never really gets explained nor properly resolved, with very little payoff.
The acting by the two leads is great though, with Lee Carter being successfully portrayed as a trouble maker to full effect by Will Poulter. He just hits every note as the conniving and manipulative little shit disturber while also selling the subtle changes his character slowly evolves into. Will is played so cute and wonderfully by Bill Milner, who successfully captures the innocence of Will while displaying his sense of wonder and excitement to jump head on into something he feels so passionate about. We also really believe his struggle with his at home life and root for him to break free of his chains.
In the end, Son of Rambow is a wonderful and fantastic film when Lee Carter and Will are one on one creating and making a fun and silly world to live in. During the third act the film does waiver quite a bit though and really looses it’s head on what it wants to be, and you along with the film will feel a bit lost. But the film tightens up and gets a clean message out by the end, which really puts a smile on your face and makes you remember what made the film great, you just wish it would have been that great all the way through.