Sunday, May 04, 2008

FILM: Son of Rambow

Making a quiet opening this weekend in the shadow of Iron Man and Made of Honor, was the charming small British film Son of Rambow, an exploration of boyhood and imagination whose authenticity harkens Stand By Me from over twenty years ago. The film soars on the brilliant performances of the two middle-school-aged actors (Bill Milner and Will Poulter) who bring to life the two characters who dominate the film, Will Proudfoot, a small quiet boy with a vivid imagination and talent for drawing whose family belongs to an Amish-like sect called "the brethren", and Lee Carter, a tough troublemaker with a passion for film-making who is very loosely supervised by an older brother and constantly traveling parents. These unlikely collaborators meet in the school hallway because one is constantly being put out of the classroom for bad behavior and the other is constantly being put out of the classroom whenever the teacher shows a film or documentary TV show because he's not allowed to watch TV. Once they meet and find a common outlet for their combined talents in the making of an action-adventure film, their own lives become an adventure. The film mostly shows us these two boys making their film, in a way that's infused with subjectivity, with the boundaries between reality and imagination, as well as film versus film-within-film, being occasionally blurred. Sometimes we're in Will's mind, with animated action seeping into the real world, and other times we're in Lee's head, seeing his world through his camera lens. Even the "real world" is a boys' world, with abandoned industrial sites looking like a playground and every tree, field, and stream being a site for adventure. The dialog and the visual subjectivity are so completely natural and unself-conscious that one might forget that there was a writer and director at work here, so transparent is the hand of writer-director Garth Jennings. Before I realized it, this unique story had not only charmed me, but showed me something of boyhood character, friendship, and imagination.

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