Son of Rambow (UK - BD)
Marcus Doidge gets all nostalgic over 80s action movies with Son of Rambow
Set in the early 80s (around the time of the Rambo: First Blood cinematic release), Son of Rambow tells the story of two very different schoolboys coming together to make their own action movie. Lee Carter (Will Poulter) plays the typical school outcast, the trouble-making kid who’s always getting detention and into all sorts of mischief, including filming First Blood at the local cinema for his brother’s piracy habits. Through pure coincidence mixed with a bit of trickery, he befriends Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), a shy, quiet boy who comes from a deeply religious family and to make this story that bit more dramatic, is a child is who is forbidden from watching TV or movies of any kind due to said religion.
Much in the same vein as the recent Be Kind Rewind, we get to enjoy filmmaking of the DIY variety. Creating stunts, enjoying some visual trickery, feeling the excitement of trying to recreate something you love and more so tapping into that base level of how movies can inspire you to try something yourself. This was the perfect backdrop to really capture this buzz. The 80s home video generation, which I’m proud to be a part of, was a time where young minds could not only get to see all of this stuff in the comfort of their own homes, but for better or worse they got to see stuff they really shouldn’t have been able to at such a young age. Personally I’m not the biggest of Rambo fanatics, I was much more of an Arnie kid growing up, but this movie still manages to capture that feeling of the first time you saw something on TV that wasn’t safe. It was exciting, it was something that a young boy’s mind can just attach to and if I’d had a video camera when I was a kid I’m pretty sure I would have ended up trying exactly what these boy’s were out doing, except I would have been trying to re-enact Predator and I would have been Son of Dutch!!!
The main draw of the movie is that these boys feel like genuine kids. Yes, they have some dialogue and smarts that are above their station in places, but all in all the filmmakers Garth Jennings (director) and Nick Goldsmith (producer) struck gold with these kids. They are both genuine, realistic boys who live in a world that feels familiar and real. It’s not so much that it feels like the 80s, because it doesn’t at all really, outside of the new romantic haircuts of the older kids and the video cassettes. It more importantly feels like childhood. That feeling of freedom between you and your best friend and the absolute belief that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
Within all this, there is of course a plot. A very British plot. The parents that don’t support you, the ‘You Boy!’ teachers, the real state of the two boys’ home lives and the focus on the things they are missing—essentially the quite typical approach to British life in film. There’s quite a bizarre thread that revolves around the cool French exchange student that felt to me like a time-filler rather than anything that aided the movie. Of course the boys fall out and typically become friends again through a ‘can only happen in film’ climax, but luckily all of this doesn’t take anything away from the charm of the film and its sweet simplicity.
Simply put, this transfer is glorious and you notice it almost immediately. The vibrant colours in a lot of this movie’s bright summer-day locations just pop off the screen with a natural warm glow. The greens in the forests and the bluest of blue skies just look absolutely fantastic and even the few darker scenes within the film still manage to pull off some impressive blacks and no real loss in quality. One visual note though regarding the 80s setting—the VHS and home videos they watch in this could never look that good in real life. The top loading video players and recordings from bigger than a truck home video camera offered near crystal clear HD in some scenes and really brought a grin to my face, despite how impressive it all looked.
Presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is has to be said there was little difference in the fairly low key sound mix. It always surprises me that some of the bigger earth shattering movies come with little in the way of sound options and yet a relatively small movie like this gets these options despite never really taking advantage of them. The sound mix is a reliable one, despite doing nothing to really impress.
On the initial start up you get a few trailers, Eagle vs. Shark, Tales from Earthsea and Rocket Science, you can select the Son of Rambow trailer (2:08) from the fantastically cool animated menus. I do love it when a company thinks about a movie’s menu and how to relate it to the movie itself. This is a fine example.
Outside of that, you get a commentary with Graham, Nick, Will and Bill (the filmmakers and the two leads), which is exactly what this movie deserves. To hear the two adults’ obvious warm relationship with the movie’s two boys is actually quite infectious. They all have a laugh and it remains pretty consistent throughout the entire ninety odd minute runtime. There are lots of stories and lots of laughs about the production and it’s actually quite refreshing to hear a couple of kids on a commentary who actually have a lot of interesting takes on the process of moviemaking.
There’s a ‘Making of’ (26:02), which is a nice addition to the commentary with the same four involved. It’s pretty much a watered down version of the commentary, but has the same bright eyed fun feeling that makes it a nice look at the film. In addition to that there’s a separate interview with the boys (8:12) with the hard to warm to, edited format of questions appearing on a blank screen and cuts to the stars’ answers. It’s the same deal with the Jessica Hynes (previously Stevenson, of Spaced fame) interview (4.55).
As a nice addition there are two home made movies involving some talented kids using some DIY filmmaking; one is a competition winner (13:43) and the other isn’t really explained (10:18). Also there’s what’s seems to be a deleted or extended scene (3:07) All of these extras could have come with a little more description as to what they were exactly to be honest.
While I wouldn’t say Son of Rambow caught my imagination as much as it did with a lot of other critics, I found it to be a movie full of charm and a real childlike innocence. It reminded me of how much I responded to the action movies of the 80’s and how much they influenced a lot of mine and my friends' playing habits.
As I mentioned before it’s got a lot in common with Be Kind Rewind and as well as sharing that movies heart on its sleeve approach, it also mirrored a lot of the same flaws, especially in the lack of focus on the theme they were selling themselves on. The Rambo connection here is loose at best and is the movie’s biggest let down.
Son of Rambow is a solid and above average British movie with two very enjoyable performances from its leads. It’s a fun little watch and has a great HD transfer, but you may might to try it as a rental before you commit to buying it.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 11th August 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Description Track
Extras: Commentary with Garth, Nick, Will and Bill, Making of Featurette, Interview with Jessica Hynes, Interview with Will and Bill, U.S Competition Winner Footage, Aron: Part 1, Geography Lesson, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Garth Jennings
Cast: Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Hynes
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama and Family
Length: 95 minutes
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