Smile Politely

The Beauty That Comes From Corrupting a Boy’s Mind

I remember what it was like to sit in the backseat of my parents’ car, gazing out the window and imagining mythical creatures frolicking alongside the road. (Nevermind the fact I still do that as a grownup.) When you’re an only child, or just a lonely one, the imagination is priceless in its bounty. It is a kid’s best tool to wile away not only boring school classes, but the glorious summer days. And to Will Proudfoot, the imagination is a doorway into another world, where friends are abundant and you can be anything you want. Ultimately, his fantasies allow him to find a friend in the real world, which is perhaps the most priceless thing of all.

Written and directed by Garth Jennings, The Son of Rambow is a delightful little film that begs you to stave off your grownup sense of reality and dive into the kid-realm. We ride alongside of Will, played by the genuine Bill Milner, who is a lonely odd duck and spends most of his days drawing fantastic imaginings and stories in his books. By his mother’s religion, he isn’t allowed to watch TV, and is serendipitously sat in the hallway to shield him from the evils of a classroom movie and meets the ruffian Lee Carter (Played convincingly by Will Poulter). Their first encounter leaves a deep impression on the shy Will.

Upon seeing Lee Carter shoved into the hallway by a teacher, Will recognizes that this is not a kid he wants to be left alone with and ducks behind a giant goldfish bowl. The poor boy doesn’t stand a chance. Lee Carter notices Will’s movement like a hound tracking a pigeon and makes a noise to get the boy’s attention. Will peers around the fishbowl to see a rubber ball zinging straight toward his head. The next thing he knows, he is knocked on the ground in a tousle and the fishbowl is smashing next to the two of them. The both of them are sent to the principal’s office. Lee Carter is a pro at how this works. He offers to take the blame for the busted fishbowl (and an alleged torturing session) in exchange for Will’s watch, which is the boy’s memento of his dead father. Scared silly at the prospect of being tortured, Will hands over the watch and makes a run for it. Lee Carter then sneaks off in the other direction when nobody’s looking.

Doesn’t really seem like the prelude to a good friendship, right? This introduction to Lee Carter is what makes for a compelling relationship between the two boys. Eventually, they steal a bicycle together and end up at Lee Carter’s home and we see what kind of home life he’s enduring. Even in understanding the boy’s personal turmoil, it’s hard not to want to clock him one for being a bully and a spoiled brat. At first, Will is visibly terrified of him, but has no hope of standing up for himself and is bullied into being a stuntman for Lee Carter’s homemade “screen test.” This entails standing blindfolded with a piggy bank on his head while Lee Carter shoots at it with a crossbow.

But the real turning point comes when Lee Carter hides Will in a boat while a bootlegged copy of Rambo: First Blood plays on a nearby TV. Will’s eyes are opened to the magic of cinema, and the glory that is the invincible action hero, Rambo. Will is transfixed the entire length of the movie, and the next time we see Will, he is a child broken from his shell, running like a banshee through a field, screaming a battle cry. His imagination boils into overload. And, like a LSD-laden romp, Will begins to imagine things coming to life around him as he dons himself the ‘Son of Rambow’ and aims to take on the evils of the world.

The kids in this film are never the cheeky, sickeningly fake semblances we see in most Hollywood films. Like Millions and About a Boy, the Son of Rambow showcases realistic children with emotions and dialogue that wouldn’t be employed by people twice their age. It’s refreshing to see movies that pull you down to a kid’s level and remind you of what it was like when you were less than five feet tall. There are moments of synchronized coolness in the students Will looks up to — but when you were a kid, didn’t it feel like that? When Will observes the French transfer student, Didier (Jules Sitruk) — who resembles Rufio in Hook dressed like Michael Jackson — the boy observes him like a separate, engrossing species of human. To him, every stitch and movement of Didier is a picture of wonder, like one of Will’s imaginings. So when Didier finds out Will and Lee Carter are making a movie, Will can’t even fathom turning him down.

Rambow speaks a lot about what it means to be family. Whether it’s the controlling ‘brethren’ Will’s mom is devoted to, or the cuts on Will and Lee Carter’s hands that make them ‘blood brothers,’ the film questions what it means to be a family. Sometimes our views cloud what’s most important in our life, and we are forced to take a step back and analyze how our lifestyles are affecting those who mean the most to us. Son of Rambow makes no apology for being blatant in its message, and in a world littered with torn families and friendships, it’s not so bad to have a reminder of what should be the primary focus in life.

Son of Rambow is now playing at the Beverly Cinema
Runtime: 1h 36min — Rated PG-13 — Comedy

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