Will Proudfoot is looking for an escape from his family's stifling home life when he encounters Lee Carter, the school bully. Armed with a video camera and a copy of "Rambo: First Blood," Lee plans to make cinematic history by filming his own action-packed video epic. Together, these two newfound friends-turned-budding-filmmakers quickly discover that their imaginative and sometimes mishap-filled cinematic adventure has begun to take on a life of its own!
"Son of Rambow" makes an odd case in support of film censorship, or as the more politically correct term goes, classification. In writer/director Garth Jennings’ film set in the early 80’s, a young schoolboy, Will Proudfoot, who comes from a strict Plymouth Brethren family and therefore forbidden to watch television, gets his first taste of violent entertainment in the form of a pirated copy of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood (1982).
The result? The boy, Will, starts to dream of himself as the son of Rambo, who has to fight off his enemies (including an evil scarecrow) to rescue his father (yes, Rambo) trapped in a dungeon. And what’s worse, Will decides to realise his dream by making a film out of it for a young filmmakers’ competition called Screen Test. I’m not sure many parents would approve of their children paying their own personal homages to Stallone’s bloody violent war film.
But aside from proving that perhaps film ratings should actually be properly heeded, Jennings’ film is really a sweet coming-of-age story of Will’s friendship with another boy of his age, Lee Carter, the renowned terror in Will’s school for his raucous behaviour. Carter is the reason for Will’s inspiration- it is in Carter’s house where he is busy making copies of Stallone’s film that Will first gets his glimpse of the world of filmed entertainment. Their friendship is both built up and tested through the making of their amateur film- the closest one can possibly get to a passion project.
The beauty in Jennings’ film is twofold. As an ode to growing up, it is a whimsical and utterly charming tale of friendship between two unlikely individuals that learn to reach out to each other past the trappings of family and society. Indeed, despite Will’s mother and Brethren telling him otherwise, he is able to see past that tough-guy exterior Carter hides behind and recognise the goodness within a child just as in need of some company.
Slowly, and convincingly, Jennings develops the bond between Will and Carter, aided by engaging performances by first-time leads Bill Milner and Will Poulter. Milner’s puppy-dog look suits his role of the innocent yet gullible Will perfectly, combined with a child-like innocence that will immediately have you rooting for him. Poulter, on the other hand, plays the bad-boy Carter with great aplomb and gives his role the right amount of brashness and vulnerability.
But for wannabe filmmakers, there’s an added joy to be found- Will and Carter’s perseverance to see their film made is a tribute to guerrilla filmmaking. Indeed, for those who have ever wanted to make a movie, "Son of Rambow" will make you wonder why you didn’t just grab a camera and gone out to shoot something. Never mind the lack of technical expertise or any sort of artistic direction- sometimes it’s all about just doing it, as watching this film has dawned on this reviewer.
And that’s what Garth Jennings has done- he had a unique idea for a film, he made it, he showed it at Sundance, people loved it and now it’s gone into wide release. Even Stallone loves it- hence the authentic footage in the movie of the lean, mean Stallone in First Blood. There’s a delightful quirkiness to Jennings’ "Son of Rambow" that much befits the very nature of his premise, a winning British comedy that will make you reminisce about all those wild, imaginative thoughts you had as a child- even without watching Rambo: First Blood of course.
Commentary with director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith and casts Bill Milner and Will Poulter: Engaging and lively commentary with great banter among the four- take it as a great companion piece to the film if you like it.
The Making of Son of Rambow: Quite unlike the usual behind-the-scenes look at the film, this making of has the director, producer and two principal cast members Milner and Poulter sit around a table talking about everything from auditions to casting to shooting to post-production. Did you know Jennings’ and Goldsmith’s production company Hammer and Tongs operates out of two boats along the river? Fascinating.
Aron: This is Garth Jennings’ 10-minute short that inspired the “Son of Rambow”. Think of it as Jennings’ first stab at filmmaking.
This Code 3 DVD boasts a nice visual transfer that preserves the rich colours of the film. Audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 and is good enough for a movie that doesn’t require much more than what a 2.0 channel can offer.
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 16 November 2009