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Son of Rambow: A Home Movie

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for violence and reckless behavior

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Teens • Adults
Comedy Drama
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
May 2, 2008
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Relevant Issues
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BULLIES—When someone picks on my child, should I tell him to fight back or turn the other cheek? Answer

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Featuring: Neil Dudgeon, Bill Milner, Jessica Stevenson, Anna Wing, Will Poulter, Tallulah Evans, Emilie Chesnais, Paul Ritter, [more]
Director: Garth Jennings
Producer: Bristol Baughan, Christian Baute, Benjamin Goldhirsh, Nick Goldsmith, Hengameh Panahi, Jane Robertson
Distributor: Paramount Vantage

“Make Believe. Not War.”

No, it’s not a sequel. The only thing that Sly Stallone has to do with this film is the inspiration that two English adolescent boys receive after viewing the iconic 80’s film and set out to make their own war movie for a local British film showcase.

“Son of Rambow” is an English coming-of-age story set in the 1980’s where two boys collaborate to make a film and end up becoming friends. They meet when the religiously raised Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is told to wait in the hallway while his classmates watch a film that his family and faith will not permit him to view. While in the hallway he encounters class prankster Lee Carter (Will Poulter) who is kicked out of the classroom with uproarious applause from the class.

After Lee Carter entangles Will in one of his shenanigans and manages to convince Will that he owes him, the two form a partnership to collaborate on a home movie that Lee Carter is making, Will taking on the role of stuntman in their ‘First Blood’ tribute.

Will is being raised by his mother in a strict religious household under the teachings of a group referred to as “The Brethren.” By participating in this project, and by becoming friends with a notorious “bad boy,” Will has to lie to his mother and the members of his “church” to keep his secret. As he becomes more involved with the project and more intertwined with Lee Carter, it becomes obvious he has to make a choice between a faith he doesn’t know very well and a friend he is unsure of.

The film is told from the perspective of Will, a very young, impressionable and naïve’ young boy. From that point of view, the film is very whimsical and energetic in its telling of the story of these boys friendship and filmmaking. It presents this story in a very stylish and sometimes seemingly chaotic manner (at times it almost feels like we’re actually watching the film of these two amateur boys rather than watching a fictional film of these two amateur boys making a film—however, I feel that may have been the filmmaker’s—of the actual film—intent).

Which brings up another layer of the film, and that is the story of “the film within a film.” On the pantheon of movies about filmmaking, this particular story fits somewhere between “Living in Oblivion” and the recently released “Be Kind Rewind.” Stylistically, it is in many ways similar to the latter. From the point of view of watching Lee Carter and Will get further and further involved in creating their vision, we see them go through many of the same obstacles as Steve Buscemi’s character did in the filmmaker’s version of Murphy’s law exemplified in the formerly mentioned film.

Though it is the secondary story of the piece, the question of faith and this particular religion play a key role in the film, since it is a major part of Will’s family and weighs heavily on each decision he makes. Will’s mother is counseled by a leader of “the Brethren,” who seems to be interested in her but never lets his interest go beyond a friendly hug, although he is not shy to offer his parenting advice concerning Will.

“The Brethren” may be interpreted by some Christians as a veiled attempt to strike out at Christians or conservative fundamentalists, however, in the film, the group comes off as an isolated group of believers that adhere to a very strict brand of religion that abstains from outside influences, such as worldly music and entertainment. To the credit of the film, it should be noted that though this group and their beliefs figure highly in the film, it never portrays the religion or its adherents as being zealots or fanatics, simply as a part of Will’s life that affects his decisions.

Like most British comedies the performances of this ensemble cast are right on, particularly those of the two young leads. The two actors have a lot to chew on in these well-rounded parts. Though the boys are young and naïve, the characters are complex and mirror the type of relationship seen previously between Gordie Lachance and Chris Chambers in the 1995 classic “Stand By Me.”

The film is rated PG-13 for some violence and senseless behavior. Most of the violence is comedic, when mishaps occur on the set of the movie. The most graphic violence is from the clips of the film that Lee Carter and Will base their movie on. Most Christians will find the references to this group “the Brethren” too broad to warrant any personal offense. There are a few obscenities and the use of God’s name in vain in a couple circumstances. Some may also take offense to a scene where Will uses his Bible as a sketch book to illustrate and draw storyboards for the film they are creating. Some parents may be upset by some of the lengths Will goes to in order to deceive his mother, but it’s an issue at the heart of the film that may generate a conversation about choices between parent and children who see this film.

As a family film in a season about to be inundated by Summer Block-Busters, a family could do much worse, both in terms of quality and content. The film would probably be best suited for teens and mature adolescents.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—This was an enjoyable movie, especially if you grew up in the UK in the 80s, but it did I feel portray Christians in a negative light, however I need to point out that “The Brethren” are a real Christian denomination and not some made up Church, as I think the reviewer was suggesting. Although I am a baptist, I atttended a Brethren Church for 3 years as a teenager and it was not anywhere near as strict as what was portrayed in this film.

However, there were things in the film, that did remind me of the Church I attended and the other things that were portrayed about “The Brethren” are certainly things that I've heard of happening in Brethren churches, especially in days gone by and you have to remember this was set in the 80s. However, to choose this example of Christians, could be seen as deliberate Christian bashing, as it certainly isn't a fair example of mainstream Evangelical Churches in the UK, even in those days.

My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
David Renton, age 36
Movie Critics
…wildly funny and unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story is an unabashed celebration of childhood and moviemaking…
Ethan Alter, Film Journal International
…funny, eccentric kids’ film…
…A hodgepodge of popular kids’ elements crammed into a mishmash of a movie. …
Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter
…I really wanted to like it, and there are some laughs, but the film doesn't fully earn our sentimental indulgence, and there is a persistent sort of Britfilm lameness, 2-D characterisation and soft-focus comedy.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
…Innocuous childish violence. … A likable, lightly sticky valentine to childhood… uninflected, touching performances of the two young leads…
Manohla DArgis, The New York Times