Not exactly what you’d expect as a follow up from the director who brought us Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but writer/director Garth Jennings decided to return from his work on Galaxy and focus on something he’d written before his first big hit. Although a definite change in gears, Son of Rambow is a much more personal film for Jennings, pulling from his own childhood experiences and mixing them in with a story revolving around two boys. It may sound off putting at first, but Son of Rambow is about as similar to the films it’s (sort of) named after as bunnies are to lions.
When his home life begins to hinder everything he does, Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) forms an unlikely friendship with the school bully, Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Though Lee leads Will around at first, the two really begin to bond when Will begins to not only help Lee with a film he’s making, but also ends up providing the inspiration for it. Although things go smoothly for a short time, soon Will’s home life begins to mess with his involvement in the picture, causing a rift to form between the two friends. With the introduction of new cast and crew into the film’s production, the rift further expands until a horrible accident finally pushes the two apart.
As mentioned, the film is nothing like it sounds. While watching it I was getting flashbacks of Stand By Me or The Goonies (that to a lesser extent, however), and honestly, that’s not a bad thing. The film mixes together humor and the feeling of friendship that two friends share like quite no other film. While Stand By Me was a collective effort, this film tells the story of two lone boys, which changes the way the story progresses dramatically. While it starts out with just the two of them, as it progresses and adds more to the mix, you begin to feel the two separate, which is an integral part of the storyline.
There is really just so much about this film to enjoy. While the script itself is delightful in its own right, it’s the lead actors that really make the film shine. With this both being their first picture, they sure made a hell of a debut. While watching it I thought I’d seen Will Poulter somewhere before, as he not only looked familiar but his acting style was so natural and laid back that I was surprised to see this was his first film. Milner was quite a bit quieter (and even more so on the DVD extras), but also a superb actor in his own right and I really just can’t say enough about how impressed I was with how the two really drove home the point of the film in such a great way. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the film in terms of comedy or acting, but I was really impressed by these two from the start.
Another element that you will likely pick up on right away is the score for the film. Composed by Joby Talbot, whose previous works include the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a variety of television shows, he did a great job with the score as it brought in elements of humor and just an overall “fun” feeling to the film. Halfway into the film I had to check the DVD box as I thought maybe Danny Elfman had got his hands on the film with how some of the music was sounding, but it changed paces so much throughout that it switched between something Elfman would write and…well, I don’t know who else to compare it to for the quieter moments. It’s a great score all around though and without it I don’t think the film would have worked quite as well as it did.
The home life of Will plays a huge part in the film and really makes for an interesting way to look at the film. While you could say he’s sheltered and that, by way of his mother, he ultimately “triumphs” over it, it really is more just about the boys than it is about Will’s home life. Although the focus of some of the sub-plots of the film, it’s never a major draw, as neither is Lee’s home life which we see little of as well. In essence the two boys, despite having family at home, are just lonely and the connection the find with one another is what creates the strongest bond in the film, as well as the strongest aspect of the storyline.
Son of Rambow really is just about one of the most heartwarming films I’ve seen in a long time and I enjoyed every minute of it. While I thought the “kids starring in a film for adults” angle was a bit too much to get past, the actors just make it so easy to relate to them, that the age factor never once makes an impact on the film. The scene between Will and Lee near the nuclear plant is just so filled with emotion that it’s amazing how much these actors were able to pour out on their first movie. It truly was some of the finest acting I’ve seen, child or not.
In just about every way possible, Son of Rambow is a truly enjoyable film about two friends and the long summer they spend together making a movie. It’s packed with humor, but for every ounce of humor there’s a comparable amount of heart. Highly Recommended.
If you’re looking to buy this DVD, then you’ll have only one choice—Best Buy. As of right now it’s a Best Buy exclusive for some strange reason; I was looking all over online for it and finally found out they were the only retailer carrying it. Very strange, but at least you know where to go if you want it. The disc itself arrives in standard DVD packaging with the plain grey wash Paramount disc art that we’ve come to expect. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, while the video is of fair quality. There are some transfer issues, but nothing major that will seriously distract your enjoyment of it. The video tape footage that Lee and Will record does get a bit wonky at times, but that’s to be expected—it’s VHS after all (circa 1980). Audio is a strong 5.1 Surround track that will keep you focused on the dialogue, as that’s all that matters. On rare occasions the subwoofer will speak up, but more often than not you’ll just be using the front channels for this mix.
The extras on this DVD offering are a bit on the short side, but I was quite satisfied with what we received. First up is a commentary with Director Garth Jennings, Producer Nick Goldsmith, and Cast Members Bill Milner and Will Poulter, all of whom are a real treat to listen to. Milner is quiet as he is on the making-of on the set, but the other three are quite talkative throughout the commentary. Maybe it’s just because I enjoyed the film so much, but the commentary track here really was just as enjoyable; it’s clear the members on the track not only enjoyed the film itself but had a blast making it as well.
Further “lots of fun to make” sentiments are shared on the “Boys Will be Boys: The Making of Son of Rambow” (26:05, presented in anamorphic widescreen), which gives us a little round table discussion with the same four gentlemen as listed above. They throw in their comments on the film, the casting process, the production and what it was like working with the other actors. The only downside of this extra is that we don’t hear from any other cast members (not even Jules Sitruk, who plays the hilarious Didier Revol in the film, although they do talk about him), but there’s still plenty of chatter and on-set footage to look at. We also get a tour of their editing studios, which is actually two boats in a harbor—first time I’ve ever seen that and quite cool.
The remaining extras are a pair of short films. First is director Jenning’s “Garth’s Short Film: Aron” (10:48) which is an interesting little film to watch. The second is “Son of Rambow: Website Winner” (5:04), which I assume they ran some contest for—there’s no real context given for this video. It’s quite well done and it’s neat to see what entrepreneurial young filmmakers can come up with.
Overall a rather short disc in terms of extras, but the combined power of the commentary and making-of are more than enough for this indie film. As long as you have a Best Buy nearby (or an online account for their site), this release comes Highly Recommended.
Son of Rambow is now available on DVD.