Rating: 3 stars
An unapologetically sentimental cross between Be Kind, Rewind and Stand By Me, Son of Rambow is about the importance of boyhood friendships and the gloriously unhinged pleasures of homemade movie making.
It’s the early 1980s in England and 10-year-old Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) has led a very sheltered life. His father died of a sudden aneurysm and his mother is a member of a very restrictive religion (Will is not even allowed to watch TV). So Will retreats to the world of the imagination, doodling an elaborate adventure story on any flat surface he can find. One day, he meets the rambunctious Lee Carter (Will Poulter), also a fatherless child, who is as free-spirited as Will is repressed.
It’s at Lee’s house that Will spies a bootleg copy of Rambo: First Blood and falls in love with the macho action hero. It’s touching, of course, that Will doesn’t want to be Rambo, he wants to be Rambo’s son—although the cutesy misspelling is one of the film’s many heavy-handed touches. Together, Will and Lee create an adventure of their own—with Will discovering the sensual pleasures of tree-climbing and rope-swinging and making blood-brother pacts for the first time.
Two things, however, challenge their idyll: Will’s disapproving religion and the new exchange student, a too-cool-for-school French boy (Jules Sitruk) with an elaborate new wave pompadour, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and a studied pose of Jean-Paul Belmondo ennui who has enchanted the entire school, except for Lee, who thinks he’s a git.
There’s some melodrama thrown into the mix at the end—fight, an accident, a few tears—but fear not, nothing of too serious consequences occurs. (The film, written and directed by Garth Jennings, is more shambling and nostalgic than plot-heavy.)
Son of Rambow is a valentine to the innocence of youth and the power of movies to ignite the imagination. It is, without a doubt, the best (and most unlikely) thing that Rambo has ever inspired.