Ever since Guy Ritchie struck gold with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, British Cinema has been awash with a slew of copycat gangster flicks. Indeed, there are the big budget blockbusters such as the Harry Potter films but when the budget is more modest there seems to be a tendancy to play it safe and stick to what’s currently flavour of the month (or even the past 13 years). So when Garth Jennings brought us the quirky titled Son Of Rambow in 2008 it was easily going to stand out from the majority of British films being released around this time.
The film tells the tale of two very different young boys named Will and Lee who don’t fit in amongst their peers, how they discover each other and, during a long British summer in the early 80s, make a film inspired by the movie First Blood. We mostly follow Will who is a quiet mouse of a boy who, as a result of the religion imposed upon him by his widowed mother, spends his time drawing and living in his imagination. This existence is punctuated by his meeting with Lee, the school trouble-maker who consistently flouts the rules and is a much more free spirit. By chance Lee introduces Will to First Blood and Will, having never been allowed to watch television, instantly has his imagination sparked in a way that had been previously unknown to him. This then leads to their burgeoning friendship as the pair of them begin writing, filming and starring in their very own Rambo-style film in a bid to win a young film-makers competition on TV.
This movie is an excellent portrait of young friendship and it evokes a similarity to Ken Loach’s Kes in the way that it captures the innocence of youth. However, whereas Kes is a grittier drama, Son Of Rambow is a more light-hearted affair. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have moments of seriousness but on the whole you’ll find yourself chuckling and laughing out loud rather than reaching for the tissues to wipe your eyes. The story is told well, is suitably heart-warming without seeming overly sentimental and the 80s time-frame is authentically recreated, reminding more older viewers of a time before our every move was stifled by health and safety regulations. There are also a handful of cameo appearances by the likes of Edgar Wright, Adam Buxton and a particularly hilarious turn by the one and only Eric Sykes. That said though, the adults in the film play second fiddle to the children, who all give very natural performances and appear to be having great fun while doing so.
However, the film isn’t without its faults and the balance between comedy and drama seems a bit off as we don’t seem to see enough of the main characters’ family lives with only hints at their respective dysfunction. Also the characters on the periphery such as Didier the French exchange student and his entourage seem less developed and one-dimensional. That said, I may just be nit-picking as these are only minor faults and don’t really effect your enjoyment of the film.
Son Of Rambow is a fine example of British cinema which is not afraid to break free of the trends that are currently dominating UK films. It doesn’t feel clichéd and sets a high benchmark for similar movies of its kind. Overall, despite the minor faults, this is a great family film that should satisfy children of all ages with its un-patronizing charm and humour and remind older viewers of the carefree joy of childhood.