SON OF RAMBOW
Director: Garth Jennings
Screenwriter: Garth Jennings
Producers: Nick Goldsmith, Hengameh Panahi, Ben Goldhirsh, Bristol Baughan
Cast: Will Poulter, Bill Milner, Jules Sitruk, Charlie Thrift
United Kingdom, 2006, 95 min.
*A nostalgic trip back to the 1980s, Son of Rambow is an inventive valentine to an era where, for the first time in history, young minds had access to technology that allowed them to create their own stories while paying homage to their larger-than-life heroes from the movies that inspired them.
Will, who isn't allowed to watch TV or go to the movies, expresses himself through his drawings and illustrations until he finds himself caught up in the extraordinary world of Lee Carter, the school terror and crafter of bizarre home movies. Carter exposes Will to a pirated copy of the first Rambo film, First Blood, which blows his mind wide open. Against his family's orders, his imaginative little brain begins to flower in the world of filmmaking. Will and Lee become popular at school through their films, but when a French exchange student, Didier Revol, arrives on the scene, their unique friendship and precious film are pushed to the breaking point.
Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith, aka Hammer & Tongs, the creative visionaries behind The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, utilize a vast array of visual techniques to perfectly capture the moment in time when anything was possible and dreams could be recreated with a home video camera, a few props, and a ton of imagination.
*Summary by Trevor Groth, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
Well, this film was a blast! Son of Rambow is an extremely fast-paced and hilarious film about how a young boy falls in love with the possibilities given to him by a home VCR recorder. Home video technology is so routine and advanced these days, it is hard to imagine how revolutionary the VCR was in the 1980s. Films could be seen, affordably, at home, instead of at the theatre. Imaginative children could create their own films with VCR recorders. A new generation of cinephiles was born. How many of today’s directors and producers made their first films on VCR or Super8, lovingly editing them for hours with simple STOP, REC, and PAUSE buttons?
The two lead boys are great; Will is a wonderful blank slate, waiting to be motivated, prepared to be imaginative. Lee Carter is a British Dennis-the-Menace, a tough, mean troublemaker with hidden vulnerabilities. When Carter introduces Will to Rambo: First Blood, Will becomes obsessed with the story and making his own version of the film. Both Will and Carter have insufficient father figures, and their film expresses many of those issues. It is a welcome note of depth in an otherwise light and fun film. The visual style of the film is extremely fast-paced and bright. Maybe it’s a bit of a stereotype, but I find that many English films look plain, with a muddy and earthy visual palette. Rambow is vibrant and full of sharp color, it’s a treat. There are a lot of quirky visual gags with a great deal of innovative camera movement.
Some scenes get very surreal, with some very well-done animation. I felt like this is how surreal animation should be done in films, what Science of Sleep’s animation scenes should have been like, more of an addition to the film than the centerpiece. Some problems do come up, but like a number of films at this festival, it is hard to harshly criticize a largely smart and light comedy. I found the strong English accents very hard to understand at some points. I also found some of the plot surrounding Will’s mother ridiculous. She belongs to a very conservative religious group and restricts Will’s after-school activities severely. However, once she breaks up with her boyfriend in the group and once Will starts to rebel against her, she quickly abandons her conservative ways and supports Will. I just felt there was a more subtle and believable way to get her there.The finale of the film, when Will premieres his film to his estranged friend, Carter, and a large audience, is wonderful. The film that Will makes is a hilarious rendition of Rambo, with bad sound, atrocious acting, with a bunch of kids running around acting manly. So many filmmakers have that kind of first film, made with their friends on Super8, films that feel, at the time, like masterpieces. Though with the father issues that I mentioned earlier, Will’s film is far better than most auteur’s first effort. Son of Rambow is a wonderful comedy, a light and breezy English film about the allure of American macho cinema. It is also a wonderful exploration of the inspirational power of film and how badly one can fall in love with moving pictures.