Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday Movie Review: Son of Rambow

Son of Rambow (2007) 8/10
In 1982, two boys become friends. Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is deeply imaginative, lonely, and forbidden to watch TV by his strict religious family. Lee Carter (Will Poulter) is a troublemaker, frequently punished in school. With Lee's movie camera and Will's script, they set out to make "Son of Rambow" in order to win a young filmmakers contest.

There should be room for little movies. Son of Rambow will not change your life, or the world, or filmmaking. It is not, by and large, extraordinary. It is the very definition of a "small" movie. Its budget appears low, its stars are unknown, and its concerns are the delicate moments in young lives. It's almost hard to figure out how to review it. It's just this lovely little movie, so what is one to say?

It's 1982. Will's father is dead. He carries a journal with him everywhere; richly illustrated, it is an adventure tale with monsters and heroes and a father being rescued. He has never seen television or a movie, but he is busily creating them in his journal. He is incredibly sheltered and innocent, but his geekiness is not overdone. It's enough to know that he's absorbed in his own book. There are no scenes of him being teased or ostracized, but it's pretty clear that he has no crowd, no friends, no life outside his inner creation. When Will visits Lee's home for the first time, he sees his first movie: First Blood (the first Rambo movie, which Lee is making pirate copies of), and he's stunned. He's simply floored; adventure, heroics, explosions—it's his fantasies come to life. He begins to rewrite his adventure tale to make his imprisoned father "Rambow," and give himself Rambo's abilities.

Meanwhile, a busload of French exchange students have arrived at Will and Lee's conservative English school, and one student, Didier (Jules Sitruk) makes a huge splash by introducing his New Wave style and disaffected sensibility.

What happens is uncomplicated, comical, and engaging. The characters are not exactly profound or complex, but they are uniquely themselves. Will is no stereotypical geek, Lee is not a clichéd "bad boy," and Didier is unlike anything or anyone. Most of the fun is in the making of Son of Rambow; the insanely clever setup of stunts and effects is fun to watch, and also a bit of meta-commentary on making a low-budget film. As things get more complicated, they get less fun, which is what we might expect an indie filmmaker to say. But the movie retains its fundamental innocence, unencumbered by commentary on filmmaking or anything else.

(Son of Cross-Post)