Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to highlight films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
the United Kingdom! One of my favorite films of the year so far is the recent British release, In Bruges, but it was a different English, psuedo-buddy comedy that seemed to catch all the positive buzz this year. A coming of age tale set in 1980’s England, starring a cast of unknowns (on these shores anyhow), directed by the guy who killed the possibility of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film series, and FSR’s head honcho Neil Miller loves it? Talk about entering a film with less than stellar expectations…
Son of Rambow opens with the perfect visual introduction to it’s two main characters. Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) stands amidst a group of protesters in front of a theater showing Sylvester Stallone’s First Blood, steps forward, and begins to read from the bible. Inside the theater, Lee Carter (Will Poulter) sits legs up on the seat before him, cigarette in mouth, and records the on-screen carnage with a giant VHS camera. Will is a member of the Brethren, a tight knit religious community than forbids sinful activities such as watching movies, listening to music, and killing prostitutes. Lee is the school troublemaker with an absentee family who turns his frustrations into instigating and pissing off everyone around him. The two meet when Lee decides Will is going to help him make a short film for entry into a young filmmakers contest, and after one viewing of First Blood, the sheltered and repressed Will is on board as the most enthusiastic stunt man you’ve ever seen.
Will’s joy and imaginative release is plainly visible on the boy’s elfin face as well as in a spectacular dream sequence showing his mental creations come to life. That scene and the duo’s movie making antics are the film’s high points along with some fun and idiosyncratic random bits (ex. Will’s mouthful of water, mom force feeding Grandma.) The film makes time for two less engaging plot threads as well. One involving the Brethren seems to be a minor slap against organized religious sects (something I’m always down for, but here it just seemed unnecessary.) The other follows the introduction and subsequent schoolyard reign of an ultra-hip and cool French foreign exchange student. These asides fare better earlier on as humorous but brief interruptions into the story of Will and Lee, but are less entertaining as the two merge towards the film’s inevitable dramatic conflict. The drama seems slightly forced, but I’d be lying if I said these eyes of mine didn’t get a wee bit misty.
Son of Rambow‘s second half may lose some of the cinematic exuberance and youthful love of movie magic on display in the first forty-five minutes, but it still manages to keep you engaged with its themes both large, the power of film to alter lives, and small, the boys’ friendship. Both boys do an excellent job, but Poulter stands out as an incredibly expressive and emotive young actor. His comedic timing is spot on, and he even manages to impress with a difficult angry and emotional scene. Director Garth Jennings shows his strength in the arena of smaller films (compared to the bloating excess of HGttG) where characters take center stage over effects. If you love movies, which you should if you’re reading this site, then you’ll quickly identify with the film’s message… and after watching Son of Rambow you may just be inspired to pick up your digital camcorder, recall your childhood ambitions of celluloid stardom, and make a sex tape. (If so, you’re a sick bastard. But feel free to send them on over to FSR for review anyway.)
The Upside: Creative and evident love for movies; Will Poulter is an incredible find; shows religion as the ridiculous man-made invention it is.
The Downside: Loses some of the magic (but not all) as the “plot” gets in the way.