Saturday, October 27, 2007

London Film Fest Day 11 - SON OF RAMBOW: A HOME MOVIE

Each year, one movie stands out as the great unexpected discovery of the London Film Fest. In 2005 it was CACHE and last year it was SHORTBUS. Far be it for me to prejudge the rest of the fest, but I have a feeling that for 2007, SON OF RAMBOW: A HOME MOVIE will be the stand-out movie. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and INTO THE WILD were all deeply affecting and beautifully shot, to be sure. And SON OF RAMBOW doesn't match them on the tech package or profundity of the message. But for all that, SON OF RAMBOW has some very unique features: it's laugh-out-loud funny, anarchic, touching, nostalgic, crazy and despite touching on deep emotional issues, never heavy-handed or manipulative. Writer-director Garth Jennings must be very pleased that he'll be remembered for something other than that disastrous HITCH-HIKERS GUIDE adaptation!

So, what's it all about? It's 1980s Britain. An era of Corona soda, fizzing sherbet, New Romantics, pirated VHS tapes and cassette mix-tapes recorded from the Radio 1 Top 40 on a Sunday night. Will is a straight-laced kid with a vivid imagination and a flair for drawing. He lives in a family with strict religious beliefs, including being banned from watching TV. He forms an unlikely friendship with the school trouble-maker, Carter, who also has issues with absentee parents and a distant elder brother who he idolises. Will watches a pirate copy of FIRST BLOOD - can you imagine a more crazy way to be introduced to video?! - and creates a fantasy world in which he's the Son of Rambow who rescues his father from the clutches of the Evil Scarecrow. So the kids start shooting the home movie and soon all the cool kids in school - including the insanely cool French exchange kid, Didier - are clamouring to join in.

In terms of production values, the movie glories in the "look" of the early 80s and the incidental props are spot on. Jennings seems to like very staged set pieces in the manner of Wes Anderson. This is particularly evident in the scenes with Didier and his acolytes. In front of the camera, the actors do a great job - especially the two kids in the lead roles. You really buy into their budding friendship. The relationship between Will and his mother, battling to preserve her religious beliefs in the modern world, is also very touching.

But the biggest sell is that the film is extremely funny. And not in an ironic, deadpan, oh-so-clever way but in a straight-from-the-gut belly-laugh way. A skinny little English kid dressed up as Rambo is just funny. But beyond this there's a silly joy at physical comedy as well as some classic one-liners. It's a world of practical jokes, pratt-falls and taking the piss out of all the stupid clothes we wore in the early 80s. Nostalgia-tastic!

SON OF RAMBOW: A HOME MOVIE played Sundance, Toronto and London 2007. It opens in the UK on March 28th 2008 and in the US on May 2nd.

1 comment:

  1. As technology advances, older analog media is always in danger of becoming antiquated. Those slides, film negatives and prints from historical family events, rites of passage and vacations, the VHS tapes of your kids' first steps, or your favorite cassette tapes from the late 1970s have all been rendered obsolete by digital media.