You don't want Rambo, you want his son

By Tatiana Craine

I want a charming boy. If possible, I’d like an artsy, creative boy who’s eager to show the world what he’s got. I wouldn’t mind if he’s adventurous and mucks around in the woods. I’d dig it if he had some worldly friends. And it would be bloody marvelous if he had a British accent.
Fortunately enough, I found two boys who fit this personal ad quite well. They are, hands down, the cutest boys in the entire world. The problem is that they’re much too young for me. And it doesn’t help that they’re characters from a film.Drat.

However, I’m willing to put aside their fictiveness and love them anyways. Why? Because they are part of the best film I have seen in 2008. Yes, I went there. I said it. I know it’s a hefty statement. And until you see this movie, you might think I’m crazy for believing in its quirky brilliance.

A plot summary wouldn’t do this film any justice. It’s necessary though. With a title like “Son of Rambow,” just what are you supposed to expect?

Let’s imagine my two little dream boys (this would be okay if I were 12) in their world. It’s the 1980s. It’s Britain. If you and I were conversing casually, I’d say, “Enough said,” at this point, but we’re not, and I definitely have not said enough about this gem of a film. The boys, Will Proudfoot and Lee Carter, are average adolescent kids. Will comes from a very, very religious family (forbidden to watch television or listen to music) and Lee from a semi-neglectful but rich household. They’re on opposite ends of the preteen social spectrum. A run-in with the school administration leads Lee to cast Will as the stuntman in his film contest submission. It sounds a little wonky, I know. Go with it. The film submission? “Son of Rambow.” See, Lee’s older brother sent him to bootleg the real “Rambo” in a theater – overly-large camera and everything. Since then, Lee has obsessed about “Rambo” and the upcoming film contest. He succeeds in dragging Will along for this crazy charade, basing the film off of “Rambo.” Eventually, some neighborhood kids get wind of this scheme and they get involved too. Add a somewhat gender-ambiguous Frenchman and some wicked 80s punk fashion, and you’ve got “Son of Rambow.”

I was surprised to learn “Son of Rambow” is the first feature film Bill Milner and Will Poulter (Will Proudfoot and Lee Carter, respectively) have starred in. The boys carry the entire movie on their prepubescent shoulders and manage to do so with giggles, zeal and a whole lot of talent. It seems effortless for these boys to pull off the genuineness of their characters. It’s rare that I believe this, but actors Milner and Poulter were cast perfectly. Milner brings to mind Freddie Highmore (of “Finding Neverland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fame), but his acting has a rawness you can’t find in Highmore’s performances. Highmore has turned into Hollywood’s little token British boy.

The Machine (read: Hollywood) has ruined many-a-thing (see: Highmore’s formerly fresh-faced acting skills). The Machine forces small-time film-makers to sell out in order to achieve their dreams. The Machine milks the box-office hits for all their worth with lunch-boxes, action figures and terrible sequels. The Machine is the Anti-Christ of the independent film world.

The Machine has not smeared its oily, all-business fingers over “Son of Rambow.” This film is all low-budget. This film is imagination, childhood, whimsy, love and camaraderie. I think Hollywood fails to show these quintessential parts of life without airbrushing the hell out of them in blockbusters riddled with contrived lines and plastic movie-star smiles. Hollywood is corrupted adulthood, and independent film culture is the rebellious youth. “Son of Rambow” gives a childlike view of dreams and friendship, untainted by hotshot producers’ ulterior motives. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s reverie.

However, I don’t want to leave you feeling like “Son of Rambow” leaves you with a saccharine taste in your mouth for days. It doesn’t. How could a film whose inspiration revolves around the idea of a 1980s Sly Stalone killing machine be too sweet? “Son of Rambow” is a manifestation of childhood yearning to fit in and find belonging. It sounds cliché. It may very well be cliché. But I highly, highly suggest you see this film and decide for yourself. Grown-up words in newspaper reviews don’t do justice to the feeling of being thrust back into childhood. You get that during this movie. You feel like you’re back in the front yard of the house you grew up in, playing with your mom’s insanely expensive video camera without her knowledge. You remember escaping to your imagination when you were little and the going got tough. You find yourself believing that an itsy-bit of enthusiasm will get you anywhere. At least, I know I felt that way when I was little – and when I watched this movie.

The film’s tagline is, “make believe, not war.” I’m still marveling at how this film achieves perfection, even in its marketing campaign. Make believe is a wondrous thing, place and state of mind that I remember being ever-present in my adolescent-self. I’d love to go back there, and I did when I watched this movie. Going back to that state of mind is a huge deal for me; and because of that, I’m sticking to my guns. “Son of Rambow” is the best film of 2008. Enough said.