I recently rented Son of Rambow, a coming of age tale in which two British schoolboy outcasts — one, Lee Carter, a bully and troublemaker, the other, Will, a shy kid raised by his widowed mother who belongs to a strict religious fundamentalist sect — develop a common ground on which to become friends. Lee’s one interest, besides causing mayhem, is filmmaking, particularly action movies such as Rambo. Will has a highly developed imagination and has secretly written a fantastical book in which the hero rescues his father from the forces of evil (and you can figure out where that idea comes from even without ever having read Freud). The two partner to realize Will’s fantasy as a movie to be submitted to a young filmmakers contest. Complications ensue when Will casts a visiting French exchange student, who everyone in school worships as the ultimate in coolness, in a lead role; the move results in Will gaining in popularity himself while Lee becomes marginalized. Meanwhile, the religious sect is beginning to suspect that Will is violating its precepts and Will has to be more inventive in accounting for his whereabouts when he sneaks off for filming.
The English film had a limited release in the U.S. and is perhaps under the radar for the average Netflixer. It is of note to BlackGaters not only because of the fantastical theme of the boys’ movie, as well as the archtypical nerdish attraction to find comfort in fantasy escapism, but because the director is Garth Jennings, who previously directed the celluloid version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which I haven’t seen, though I’ve heard fans are less than enamored of). Based in part upon his own childhood experiences, the movie is all the more remarkable because with one exception (Jules Sitruk who plays the French student), all of the child actors were neophytes (one of the minor characters is played by the grandson of Stanley Kubrick), though you’d never know it. If you’ve had your fill of the trite and true variations of this theme that are always playing at your local megaplex, check this one out. It restores your faith in the idea of film as a thoughtful medium, as opposed to the usual appeals to the lowest common denominator.