Son of Rambow is a 2007 British-French-German comedy-drama film written and directed by Garth Jennings. The film premiered on 22 January 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival. It was later shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and Glasgow Film Festival. The film was also shown at the 51st BFI London Film Festival. Son of Rambow was released in the United Kingdom on 4 April 2008 and opened in limited release in the United States on 2 May 2008. Set during an English summer during the early 1980s, the film is a coming of age story about two schoolboys and their attempts to make an amateur film inspired by First Blood.
Will (Bill Milner) is quiet and shy, and comes from a family that belongs to the strict Plymouth Brethren church. Will is forbidden to watch films or television and is made to leave his classroom when the teacher puts on a documentary. In the corridor, he meets Lee Carter (Will Poulter), the worst-behaved boy in school, thrown out of another class for bad behaviour. They accidentally break a fish bowl in the corridor; Lee volunteers to take the blame, pretending that the punishment is torture, in exchange for Will's watch, which belonged to his dead father. Moreover Lee demands that Will performs the stunts in a film Lee is making with home video equipment owned by his bullying older brother, Lawrence (Ed Westwick), which Lawrence uses in his video pirating enterprise. He intends to enter the Screen Test Young Film-Makers' Competition.
Will accepts, after accidentally seeing the film First Blood at Lee's house while hiding from Lawrence. He becomes very enthusiastic, and plays several dangerous action scenes, culminating in the two boys becoming 'blood brothers' after Lee saves Will from drowning. Lee finds Will's sketch book, full of colourful and glorious ideas, and starts to incorporate some of them into his film script. The two become best friends, but Will has to keep it secret from his family and the increasingly interfering Brother Joshua of the Brethren, who clearly has designs on his mother.
French exchange students arrive, of whom the suave Didier Revol (Jules Sitruk) becomes very popular. After finding Will's sketch book, he asks Will if he and his acolytes can play in the film, and Will agrees. Didier reveals that he has always wanted to be an actor. This mushrooms into the whole school being part of the production, and Will being included with the cool sixth-formers. Lee does not like this, as he is no longer in control, and finally quits after a fight with Will during filming of the last sequence, which takes place at a disused power station. After Will becomes trapped when part of the unstable structure collapses due to Didier's carelessness, and the entire school/crew run away, Lee returns to rescue his friend, but uses the excuse that he has come to collect his brother's camera. He too gets hurt, and has to go to hospital. Lawrence visits him, but is angry about the fact that the camera is broken.
Will's mother (Jessica Hynes), from whom he has struggled to hide his activities, finally realises that her son must be allowed to be himself and her family leaves the Brethren. The film is never submitted to the competition as they miss the deadline. The French students leave, and while Didier was popular and worshiped in England, his own school-mates mock him, and he is actually lonely and isolated. When Lawrence looks at Lee's footage he is impressed, and he sees Lee's rant at Will defending Lawrence's neglect and bullying, which was accidentally filmed. With Will's help, he adds a part in which he acts himself â" including a reply message for his brother. When Lee leaves the hospital, he is brought to a cinema by surprise. His film is shown before the main feature (much to the enjoyment of the audience) and the two boys reunite.
- Bill Milner as Will Proudfoot
- Will Poulter as Lee Carter
- Neil Dudgeon as Brother Joshua
- Adam Godley as Brethren Leader
- Jessica Hynes as Mary Proudfoot
- Anna Wing as Grandma
- Charlie Thrift as Duncan Miller
- Zofia Brooks as Tina
- Tallulah Evans as Jess Proudfoot
- Jules Sitruk as Didier Revol
- Ed Westwick as Lawrence Carter
- Eric Sykes as Frank
- Asa Butterfield as Brethren Boy
- Imogen Aboud as Young Mary
- Adam Buxton as Chemistry teacher
- Paul Ritter as Geography teacher
- Edgar Wright as Metal school Teacher
Son of Rambow is a project that Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith â" collectively known as Hammer & Tongs â" worked on for some years. Its development was interrupted when they were asked to make The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and it is their second major feature film. It was inspired by Jennings' own experiences as a child in the 1980s, when video equipment first became available to the public, and the film recreates the atmosphere of an English comprehensive school of the time, using a soundtrack of both familiar and lesser known pop tracks from the era.
Pre-production and filming
The film was shot primarily in the English town of Berkhamsted, and the nearby Ashridge Estate owned and managed by the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty Hertfordshire: featuring Ashlyns School and The Rex, a recently refurbished listed Art Deco cinema which had been left derelict between 1989 and 2004. The two roads where both boys live are approximately 1200 metres apart, being located next to Berkhamsted Castle. They are the two most exclusive residential roads in the town.
The film also shot at the Richborough Power Station in Sandwich, which was then disused.
The film includes a vintage clip of Jan Pinkava winning the BBC Screen Test competition. The minor role of Danny, an acolyte of Didier, a glamorous French exchange student, is played by Stanley Kubrick's grandson, Sam Kubrick-Finney.
The film includes excerpts from First Blood and is endorsed by Sylvester Stallone, the star of the Rambo series. At the very end of the closing credits, Carter's voice-over points out that "Rambo" is not spelled with a "w". Will replies, "Oh OK," and Carter quickly adds, "It was still good though."
The UK distributor, Optimum Releasing, is owned by StudioCanal - which owns ancillary rights to the first three Rambo films. The American distributor, Paramount Vantage, is a division of Paramount Pictures - which owns TV and digital rights to said films in North America (with the former being sublicensed to Trifecta Entertainment & Media).
Son of Rambow received generally favourable reviews from critics. As of 4 April 2013, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 73% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 116 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 66 out of 100, based on 29 reviews.
The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Both Kimberly Jones of The Austin Chronicle and Ty Burr of The Boston Globe named it their eighth best, and Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle named it his ninth.
David Morrell, the author who created the character of John Rambo, called the film "charming".
Home media release
Son of Rambow was released on DVD and Blu-ray disc in the United Kingdom on 11 August 2008, and on DVD in the United States on 26 August 2008.
- Official website
- Son of Rambow at the Internet Movie Database
- Son of Rambow at AllMovie
- Son of Rambow at Box Office Mojo
- Son of Rambow at Rotten Tomatoes
- Son of Rambow at Metacritic
- Son of Rambow entry in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival film guide
- Review at Twitchfilm
- Review from Times Online