Son Of Rambow – Sequel or Homage?

March 12, 2009

I first started hearing about Son Of Rambow when it was in theaters and I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. Was it a horrible idea for a sequel in the Rambo franchise? Was it an homage? Did it even have anything to do with the Sylvester Stallone films? I didn’t really know, but I kept the name of the movie in my head and when it started popping up on a number of “Best Movies of 2008” lists, I decided that it was time to give it a chance.

The film is definitely not an entry in the popular action franchise, although the original Rambo does play a roll in the plot of this film. The story centers on Will, a young London boy, whose family is so religious and restrictive he must find bizarre ways of entertaining himself, such as drinking from the water fountain on days he knows his class will watch a movie (he is forbidden to watch TV), holding the water in his mouth until he is sent outside the classroom, and then spitting it into a fish bowl, keeping track of his efforts on a monthly basis. He also spends a vast amount of his time drawing and creating his own stories. It’s during one of these “time outs” that he befriends Lee Carter, who wastes no time identifying himself as the school trouble-maker. This unlikely bond leads to the two boys creating their own film version of the Rambo franchise, an idea inspired within Will after Lee Carter leaves him alone with the bootlegged film playing in the background.

The story may sound somewhat silly, but to say it’s simply an homage to the Rambo films would be a cruel injustice. The story tackles several important themes focusing on the power of friendship, the battle between self-choice and family values, escapism, and abandonment issues. While the name “Rambo” might turn heads and give this film attention, it’s the friendship between Will and Lee Carter and their personal battles with their own families that are going to turn viewers into fans.

I was really surprised by the acting from the young kids in this film. Bill Milner, who reminds me a lot of Freddie Highmore, does a very good job playing the secluded Will. You feel his depression at his isolation and lack of experience, and share his joy when he’s able to break through his shell. Not only does Milner do a fine acting job, he looks like a future star. This film really belongs to Will Poulter, the kid that plays the troubled Lee Carter (and if you’re wondering why I keep using first and last name, it’s because that’s how he is referred to 100% of the time). Poulter does a great job of playing the school lawbreaker, a personality which ultimately is a projection of his own troubled relationship with his brother, whom he idolizes, but may or may not know that Lee Carter even exists. It’s no coincidence that Will Poulter was recently cast in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, due out in 2010… the kid is enormously talented and I hope to see him take on even more challenging roles in the future.

As a whole, I really enjoyed Son Of Rambow. It’s a quirky and funny film, with good acting from its young cast, and a solid story that deals with several thematic issues. I’ve seen a number of people put it on their “Best of 2008” lists and I’m pretty sure I know why. It’s a good film, yes, but the ending is phenomenal. It will pull at your heart strings and tap your tear ducts. It’s such a good ending that I think a lot of people are finishing the film thinking it’s much better than it actually was. I don’t want to get out of line and dub this as one of the great films of 2008… it’s not quite that. However, it is a very good film and the ending will leave you thinking it was great.

Score: 7 out of 10 (Must See)

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