Directed by Garth Jennings
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 95 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Review Date: August 15, 2008
A sweetly nostalgic tale of budding adolescent friendship, Garth Jennings’ Son of Rambow casts a lovely glow on childhood games between friends done stealthily beyond one’s parents’ control. While it doesn’t achieve quite the depth of other such triumphant films of youthful friendship as Stand by Me or Bridge to Terabithia, it’s nevertheless funny, imaginative, and most winning.
Quiet, lonely Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is restricted in his friendships and recreation by the strict religious sect his family belongs to: the Plymouth Brethren. So, he escapes into his imagination which is alive with evil scarecrows and other villains, and he uses his Bible as a sketchbook for all of his fantastical story ideas and otherworldly drawings. At his British public school, he’s inadvertently thrown in with school troublemaker Lee Carter (Will Poulter) who lives with an older brother while his parents are away on the continent most of the year on business. Lee has been vainly trying to make a home movie to enter into a local amateur filmmaker contest, but with Will’s boundless imagination, he sees it as a ticket to getting a really special film made and to their winning the contest. The two boys assemble a ragtag production based somewhat on Sylvester Stallone’s First Blood and his Rambo character (hence the name of the film), and the home movie becomes something of a major production when a French foreign exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk) and his entourage discover what the boys are up to and want to join in. The ups and downs of both filmmaking and friendship constitute the film’s engaging plot.
Director Garth Jennings spent six years trying to get this film made with the material being especially close to his heart since he did something similar to the two boys in the picture when he was an adolescent. There is care and affection shown to both of his protagonists as the friendship progresses in fits and starts. The stunts the boys stage are charmingly risky, and there’s great fun with the kite flying sequence and poor but always game Will risking his life for his art. Jennings (who also wrote the script) stages these scenes with great fondness for the boys and the freedom from fear of injury or embarrassment of making a fool of oneself that all boys at that age seem to display. The school population’s fascination with the trendy Didier has some tiresome moments (a line of girls wanting to kiss him; a visit to an upper grade’s common room which brings the fun to a screeching halt), and I could have done with less of him. The scenes with the movie’s two young stars, however, are all quite wonderful. There are some great animations and other special effects used to suggest Will’s imagination running rampant, but once he gets involved in the actual filmmaking, those scenes sadly peter out.
Both boys Bill Milner and Will Poulter had not done any professional acting prior to the film, but they’re naturals for it and draw us right into their various schemes and projects. Will’s mother Mary (Jessica Stevenson) delivers a fine performance as a mother attempting to honor her religious upbringing but seeing how her loving child is being crushed by its restrictions. Neil Dudgeon as a church elder courting Mary and appalled by Will’s flights of fancy also scores well as the film’s mild villain.
Son of Rambow is a small, charming film worthy of greater attention than it received in its theatrical release. Hopefully, it will find a larger, more enthusiastic audience on home video.
The anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 video transfer is mostly very strong. Colors are nicely saturated without exaggerated colors, and flesh tones always seem perfect. Sharpness in the main is very good, though there are some long shots where details get smeared. Black levels are excellent, and shadow detail is strong. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is a nice mix with some effective use of the surrounds for music and some ambient effects. Likewise, the LFE channel doesn’t get used often, but it’s there when needed and doesn’t let the film down.
An audio commentary features director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, and stars Bill Milner and Will Poulter. The four have an easy-going camaraderie which carries over to the very chatty conversation during the film. There are no silent moments as the boys always have something to say spurred on especially by their director. Jennings also for fun fires up a player to furnish his own occasional background music for the commentary.
“Boys Will Be Boys: The Making of Son of Rambow” is a 26-minute conversation between the same four participants as in the commentary as they talk about various memorable events during the making of the movie. We see clips from their audition reels, and producer Goldsmith takes us on a tour of the two boats which house his and Jennings’ production company Hammer & Tongs. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Aron is the 10 ¾-minute short film Jennings made in 1986 as a youngster which served as the basis for Son of Rambow. It obviously was made in Academy ratio which is reproduced here.
The prize-winning short film sponsored by the producers of this movie is presented in a 5-minute nonanamorphic widescreen presentation. It’s a brief espionage tale with a male and female protagonist but much in the same combative vein as Son of Rambow.
The DVD offers previews of The Duchess, American Teen, and The Love Guru.
A whimsical tale which all (but especially males) will easily be able to identify with, Son of Rambow may not be the year’s biggest box-office attraction, but its heart and humor are definitely worth a look.