Netflix this: ‘Son of Rambow’

It’s been a while since I’ve given my “Netflix This” stamp of approval (Sweet Land came close).  Son of Rambow completely deserves such a distinction.  It’s a sweet little film about many things–movies, friendship, religion and family.  It truly is a feel-good film.

What’s it about? It’s the 1980’s England, and Will (Bill Milner) is a weird kid with not a lot of friends.  His mother (Jessica Hynes) has raised Will in the faith of the Brethren, a super-devout religious sect that shuns worldly influences.  As a tenet of their beliefs, Will is not allowed to watch TV–not even an educational video during school, which means Will spends a lot of time sitting out in the hall while the kids learn about wicked things like science.

Enter Lee (Will Poulter), the hellraiser from the class down the hall.  He gets kicked out often for…well, raising hell.  So much, in fact, that you can hear his classmates cheer every time he’s excused from class.  Lee gets Will into trouble, which leads to Will being bullied into becoming Lee’s friend.

Lee’s a crafty kid–he makes pirated copies of movies playing at the local cinema.  One day, while Lee makes copies of Rambo: First Blood in his family’s garage, Will ends up watching the entire film.  It changes his life.

Soaring on the sensory overload-high, Will let his imagination run wild.  He begins storyboarding his own Rambo-style film, and soon he and Lee are shooting “Son of Rambow.”  Their filmmaking process recalls that special brand of ingenuity that oozes effortlessly out of kids, where nothing seems impossible.  (The scenes of them shooting recalled to me the passion for do-it-yourself filmmaking that my little brother possessed as a child–and still does.)

The making of “Rambow” takes on a life of its own when the popular exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk) discovers Will’s book of storyboards.  Pretty soon everybody wants to be in Will and Lee’s movie, which thrills Will but frustrates Lee who, as the film progresses, is dealing with some serious abandonment issues.  Will has trouble keeping everybody happy, and even more trouble trying to keep his movie a secret from his family and from Brother Joshua (Neil Dudgeon), a member of their church.

What’s good about it? Son of Rambow is one of those films that makes you laugh and also tugs at your heartstrings.  Outstanding performances all the way around, particularly from the two leads and Sitruk, whose deadpan delivery of the French androgynous new waver Didier is impeccable.  A scene at Didier’s exclusive party is the most hilarious scene in the whole film.

What’s bad about it? There’s a bit of language, and some kids-in-peril kind of stuff.

Perfect for: Anyone waxing nostalgic for the 80’s; anyone who loves movies about movies; anyone who’s dying for something different but not way out there.

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