Lads, cam­era, ac­tion be­longs among the best com­ing-of-age films, writes

Son of Rambow SON OF RAMBOW Di­rected by Garth Jen­nings. Star­ring Bill Mil­ner, Will Poul­ter, Jes­sica Steven­son, Neil Dud­geon Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews Film -

12A cert, gen re­lease, 96 min SO MANY pit­falls await the film­maker em­bark­ing on a com­ing-ofage movie. At the rau­cous end of the spec­trum, we find a lit­ter of films in which burp­ing halfwits seek out ever more in­ap­pro­pri­ate places in which to uri­nate. At the other, more blubby ex­treme, direc­tors of­fer us end­less en­ter­tain­ments fo­cus­ing on soiled young peas­ants and the golden hay-wains un­der which they will spoon. And let’s not start on that sub-genre deal­ing with mal­nour­ished Ir­ish waifs and their un­happy in­ter­ac­tions with the Catholic Church.

With all this in mind, we should of­fer the most en­thu­si­as­tic of hur­rahs to Garth Jen­nings and the rest of the team be­hind the smash­ing Son of Rambow. De­tail­ing the wax­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween two very dif­fer­ent boys in outer Lon­don dur­ing the early 1980s, the film is hip but not overly gim­micky, touch­ing but not sen­ti­men­tal, good-na­tured but only oc­ca­sion­ally drippy. It could lie com­fort­ably be­side pres­ti­gious bed­fel­lows such as Kes and Gre­gory’s Girl.

Will Proud­foot (Bill Mil­ner) is a shy boy grow­ing up in a house­hold gov­erned by the prin­ci­ples of the eye-wa­ter­ingly pu­ri­tan­i­cal Ply­mouth Brethren. His wid­owed mother, played touch­ingly by Jes­sica Steven­son, for­bids the view­ing of television and takes a dim view of any other medium in­vented af­ter the Peas­ants’ Re­volt. Mean­while, the ill-dis­ci­plined, wildly gre­gar­i­ous Lee Carter (Will Poul­ter), whose mother lives abroad, spends his time soak­ing up ac­tion films and get­ting flung out of maths class.

The two lads rub-up against one an­other in the school cor­ri­dor and be­gin an ex­per­i­men­tal friend­ship. Lee has elected to en­ter a film into the BBC’s Screen Test com­pe­ti­tion (if this means noth­ing to you, then ask your dad) and de­cides that the eas­ily-led Will might like to act as stunt­man.

Lee’s film is, of course, the du­bi­ously spelled Son of Rambow. Call­ing to mind as­pects of Michelle Gondry’s re­cent Be Kind Rewind, the young film-mak­ers use in­ge­niously im­pro­vised spe­cial ef­fects and hope­lessly ama­teur ac­tors to tell a story filled with ten­sion, ac­tion and wildly ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour. Ten­sions on the shoot rise when a pre­ten­tious, ar­ro­gant (surely not!) French ex­change stu­dent seeks to oil his way into the cast.

The key to the pic­ture’s suc­cess lies in its abil­ity to blend mod­ish cin­e­matic flour­ishes with an emo­tion­ally rooted plot­line. Jen­nings, whose first fea­ture was the mod­estly suc­cess­ful Hitch­hik­ers Guide to the Galaxy, is one mem­ber of Ham­mer and Tongs, a hugely in­flu­en­tial pro­duc­tion house, and Son of Rambow abounds with the kind of vis­ually ar­rest­ing im­age in which pop-video direc­tors spe­cialise. An early pan across a cin­ema au­di­ence, ev­ery mem­ber of which has a cig­a­rette clamped in his or her mouth, es­tab­lishes the tone within the first 20 min­utes. Sub­tly com­posed an­i­ma­tions, mod­elled on Will’s own draw­ings, of­fer touch­ing foot­notes to the ac­tion.

Son of Rambow would, how­ever, never catch fire with­out ster­ling ju­ve­nile per­for­mances. Mil­ner is im­pres­sive enough as the but­toned up Will, but Poul­ter, play­ing the nois­ier Lee, steals the film from un­der his nose. One is tempted to com­pare him to a young River Phoenix, but Poul­ter has an ag­gres­sive swag­ger and ease with di­a­logue that is com­pletely his own. The char­ac­ter’s even­tual mo­ments of weak­ness would only be half as mov­ing if we had not been so per­suaded by his ear­lier self-con­fi­dence.

The end re­sult is that most rare of en­ti­ties: a film for ev­ery­one. Men, women, cyn­ics, Pollyan­nas, adults, chil­dren (not­ing the 12A cert), cats, dogs, Protes­tants, Catholics and un­be­liev­ers should all find some­thing to en­joy here. Only Ply­mouth Brethren and the French will have cause for com­plaint.

Mind you, the for­mer are not, on this ev­i­dence, al­lowed to go the cin­ema and the lat­ter should have grown used to the odd satir­i­cal barb by now.

Com­mando kid: Will Proud­foot finds his call­ing

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