Son of Rambow (2008) ***

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 36min
Director: Garth Jennings
Stars: Bill Milner, Will Poulter
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

The Triumph of Fantasy and Friendship

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




Roll with it! When the plot or the editing, especially at the beginning, gets serpentine, when the kids’ utterly charming local Midlands accent is hard to follow — just relax. It won’t be long before you catch up again with the rip-roaring fun of secretly shooting a video remake of Rambo in the shadow of what appears to be an offline nuclear facility. Two marvelously mismatched boys poised on the early side of the hormonal divide forge a blood bond, unite their school, heal their families and could clearly save the whole world. The movie-within-a-movie device and several mid-summer nights’ dreamy sequences (evoking Shakespeare), work delightfully. The youthful goings-on and perilous rescues (evoking antics at St. Trinian’s, or maybe even Hogwarts) are sometimes breathtaking but only tease with terror. Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is the fatherless son of a sweet and gentle woman (Jessica Stevenson) hard-pressed to raise her children “properly” in a stifling fundamentalist Christian sect. Will’s epic imagination evokes a David Copperfield in Sylvester Stallone’s blood-soaked bandana. Lee Carter (Will Poulter) is only parentally paupered, but his survivalist ingenuity and cool nerve evoke a media-savvy Artful Dodger.

All this “evoking” creates a problem. We know what the boys are pretending, but did its creators intend Son of Rambow to be a major action spectacle or a small, polished gem? Overlong and rambling, the film sits a little uncomfortably between these two models and loses punch when it tries to do too much. But, it still manages to offer a lot of laughs, genuine poignancy and, of course, a life lesson. Its greatest treasure lies in the performances by a cast of sensational child actors. However can they be so young, so wise?

Will and Lee’s relationship is drawn with fabulous subtleties to reveal their growing compassion and understanding of each other, and their attempts to conceal it. Supported by a well-choreographed, opportunistic gang of schoolboys queuing up girls eager for a chance to soul-kiss the visiting French student, Didier Revol (Jules Sitruk) sums up adolescence in pose after ungainly punk-rock pose. The adults add appropriate spice to the stew — a dour villain in religious clothing, a long-suffering teacher of geography — although they remain mostly in the background and incidental to this tale of creative, necessary rebellion, and finding one’s identity.

Enhancing the whole is a musical score (Joby Talbot) that stays true to the visual moment. A harp is heard in the austere parlor of the Proudfoot home. You can attend to the blaring rock band in a seamy early 80’s mosh pit because it does not invade your ears throughout the movie. The excellent art direction (Robyn Paiba) is exemplified by the heavy Bible in which artistic Will has illustrated his own inner life page by page in exquisite detail, and by wonderful low-tech solutions to dramatizing the fantasy world he lives in. Written and directed by Garth Jennings, Son of Rambow lives up to its subtitle: Make Believe, Not War.

Lynn McCann's checkered professional life began with dance and has included singing and acting, writing and journalism, teaching and tutoring. A long career as a computer programmer is mercifully behind her and she looks forward to publishing a memoir, a biography, and a popular history of automation technology. She continues to perform as a singer, and leads New York City tours for Elderhostel.


sophie said on August 6, 2008


Will Poulter your so fit (hot!!) xx i luv u soo much x all i think about is you xxx ;)

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