Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Son of Rambow

Review by Stuart Bland 

I am a child of the 80s; a time when the coming of age story flooded cinemas and with standouts such as Stand By Me setting hallmarks in what can be the absolute pinnacle of cinema. Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith, writer/director and producer of this coming of age tale were also clearly children of the 80s. Their follow up to The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is a love letter to the movies they grew up on, a nostalgic and charming tale of two young boys who, despite their different upbringings, are brought together by their love of film. 

Now, movies about movies are nothing new. However, Jennings and Goldsmith have brought an innocence and honesty to a genre that often gets hindered by political and social commentaries. Son Of Rambow is a film that aspires to be nothing but a nostalgic, kid-fuelled love affair with the 1980s. 

Set in England during the 1980s, Will Proudfoot, played by Bill Milner with an innocence largely missing in many child roles these days, is a shy and quiet young boy who, having been brought up in the sheltered world of a Brethren (a religious order which has denounced the modern world), has sought refuge from his restraints with a wildly active imagination. However, upon a chance meeting with his complete opposite, Lee Carter, a troublesome delinquent played by Will Poulter with a guile and enthusiasm to admire, he is quickly enlisted as a stuntman for a homemade version of the Rambo movie, First Blood. Having never been allowed to watch television before, Will is captivated and enthralled by the sight of Sylvester Stallone’s action extravaganza, and when his imagination takes hold, his sequel, Son Of Rambow is born. 

The boys friendship grows as the film is raised off the ground, and find they have more in common than at first it seemed. However, following a series of action packed and imaginative set pieces, their movie starts to gain their schoolmates attention, which jeopardizes the honesty and integrity of the film and shakes the boys’ friendship to the core. 

While the film itself has its faults, with Jennings’ ambition sometimes overcomplicating and burying the simplicity of the story, the movie is held together by some fantastic performances from the two young leads that revel in their roles. The style of the movie is also very strong, with a great deal of inspiration taken from the whimsical fantasy of Michel Gondry and early Peter Jackson, and with its heart in the right place, Jennings has been able to craft a charming movie which hopefully in time will sit happily alongside those 80s coming of age stories in which he has tried to emulate.

3.5/5 stars


Review by Don Hill

When I first heard the premise of this film, I was intrigued, to say the least.  A young boy named Will escapes the frightening, mundane world by pretending to be the son of John Rambo(w) from First Blood fame.  Together with his new (and only) friend, Lee (the school’s wild child), the pair decide film a movie for a TV contest by making their own movie of the adventures of the Son of Rambow.  As a fellow 80’s child with a wild imagination, Will could be me if I were British and had a kooky religious upbringing.

To call this movie cute is both the perfect description and incredibly oversimplified.  The story of two boys from bad or broken homes who retreat into their own imaginations to escape the intolerable cruelty of the world is cute in the broad sense but also sad.  That these misunderstood boys had to cling to each other and fantasy only heightens how deep an impact stories can have on our lives whether it is books, movies, or music.

I do not want to give away too much of the plot as this is a movie to be experienced.  The burgeoning friendship between the two boys develops gradually, even haltingly, as Will’s religion forbids him friends outside of his church (cult), especially friends with the tough-guy reputation of Lee.  The stories that Will tells himself in his books become the focal point of the film.  The story of their “film” involves Rambo(w)’s son trying to save him from bad guys, a direct parallel to the way that Will and Lee hope to be rescued from their own lives.  

Bill Milner plays Will (in his first film) and he has since added a few more movie and TV credits to his resume.  This kid is adorable to say the least.  He is either a great child actor or the imaginative imp that cavorts onscreen in real life.  Will Poulter plays Lee (also in his first gig), and the tough-guy child trying to be a man has never been more sad or precious.

The entire film captures that adolescent time of uncertainty and confusion almost perfectly.  The act of finding out who we really are at that age is a rite of passage for all children.  We have started to experience the world outside of the family and are in the act of shedding that first skin to become a new person.  This is always a traumatic experience and even more so when coming from a bad home life.  The first brave steps away from your parents to your true self are hard but necessary and Son of Rambow captures that process with feeling and depth.

This movie is for the child in all of us and we are the better for having watched the film.  It is why movies exist; to transport us to a magical world where hope and possibility still lie in our imaginations as we struggle to break free. 

5 / 5 stars

Comments (1):

  • JackO @ 08/01/2008 ( 8:27:34 PM )
    Thanks for the heads up on Rambow. I missed the film in theaters and I hope the DVD comes out soon!
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