Garth Jennings | 92 mins | DVD | 12 / PG-13
Of late I’ve posted several reviews resorting to taking my notes and turning them into sentences — this is why I probably should’ve stuck to my old post-them-all-in-order method. It’s now about nine months since I watched Son of Rambow, and the chances of being able to construct a worthwhile assessment from a combination of notes and memory has long since passed. So, for hopefully the last time, I offer up a paragraphified version of my brief initial notes.
Son of Rambow is beautifully written and directed, both roles fulfilled by Garth Jennings, who was previously responsible for directing the surprisingly-good (to my eyes) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie. In contrast to that effects-ridden intergalactic comedy, Son of Rambow initially seems like a relatively straightforward, perfectly pleasant little movie about two boys and their video camera. It’s partly this, but it also brings in subplots of what it means to be a family — on various levels — and the evils of over-zealous religious orders (always a favourite topic for me).
Every significant character is given at least one twist that adds an extra level to them, even those who seem to just serve a specific plot function, and most of the minor ones — right down to Will’s silent grandmother — are given their small moment to shine. Nice little touches in Jenning’s work abound, from the comic asides with Didier to Will’s fertile imagination realised through animation, or the post-credits snippet of dialogue.
The two pre-pubescent boys have to carry the film, but thankfully are up to the task (even if their names being Bill nd Will and one of the characters being called Will (the one that’s played by Bill) make remembering them outside of the film a bit of a minefield). They are never less than utterly believable in both writing and performance. Will Poulter (as Lee Carter, the more rebellious of the two) is exceptional, talented in a way that’s reminiscent of River Phoenix in Stand By Me. It’s no surprise that both have gone on to greater things. And by “greater” I really mean “other”. There are wonderful performances all round in fact — aside from the lads, Jessica Hynes is especially worthy of note, creating a powerful character in just a handful of scenes.
The shape of the story may be familiar (unlikely pair start off wary of each other but become best friends, eventually fall out when one exceeds himself, but realise the error of their ways to come back together in the nick of time) and the lessons learnt are hardly new (true friendship can conquer all), but it’s all put together with immense joy and skill, built around a charming concept, that it becomes far more than the sum of its parts.
Hilarious and touching in equal measure, you’d need a heart of stone to remain unmoved. A triumph.
Son of Rambow placed 4th on my list of The Ten Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2009, which can be read in full here.
Originally posted on 14th March 2010.