Back from the grave, everybody! How’s it rolling, this is your conductor speaking for the first time in what feels like ages. During my elongated absence I’ve been busy with school, passion projects, going through the process of moving from California to Chicago, and all the anxieties that come with living in our modern world. But hey, the Train is up and running once again, and it’s truly great to be writing on this platform after such a tiresome period of burnout. I have some ideas for future posts in mind; the same eclectic content that I’ve always enjoyed doing. Today I thought it would be best if I returned with a laidback, simple review, that of the 2007 independent movie Son of Rambow. Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road, ladies and germs…
The plot is set in a quaint British community sometime in the 1980s, where a pair of polar opposite boys become great friends; an ill-tempered delinquent and a mild-mannered daydreamer raised in a strict religious household. The two set out on an endeavor to make their very own action film. More specifically, a sequel to the debut Rambo movie “First Blood”. Ultimately what follows is a charmingly sweet adventure. It has the same awkward quirkiness that Napolean Dynomite or your typical Wes Anderson movie are recognized by.
The film is directed by a bloke naked Garth Jennings, who’s limited filmography consists of this, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the animated Sing duology from Illumination. He is also well-known for being apart of a collective called Hammer & Tongs, who produced both Hitchhiker’s Guide and Son of Rambow but primarily directed music videos. Some bands they worked with include Blur, R.E.M., Pulp, Vampire Weekend (their album Modern Vampires of the City is excellent), and even one for Coldplay all the way back on their debut album Parachutes (which is also just as excellent).
In many ways this story has a childlike innocence and wonder to it, almost in a nostalgic sort of way. I feel that Jennings, while a likable storyteller, is far too safe and predictable. The character trajectories play beat for beat as you might expect them to. It comes off as feeling formulaic even despite its interesting plotline of two kids making a home movie together. That sounds like it could be a really fun time. There are moments that take full advantage of the amusing concept, like the bit with the ceramic dog tied to the kite, but otherwise it feels muted.
I feel like the shy kid’s religious beliefs or their mutual desire for creative control could have been the main conflict between the two amatuer filmmakers, but in fact, it’s not. Quite different, actually. About halfway into the story arrives a bus full of French exchange students, one of which is a cool, eccentric, Pop Rocks-munching senior that joins their indie production. A bit rich, but okay. There was a pretty interesting scene by the end that actually added some depth to the French kid; although he was popular and well-liked in Britain, his own classmates ridicule him. Revealing that this wacky conflict catalyst is in truth a very lonely person was my personal favorite of thse brief compelling moments.
Overall I enjoyed Son of Rambow in a more bittersweet sense. As a sum of its parts it doesn’t fully relish the opportunity that comes with its delightful premise. Bits and pieces here and there only serve to remind what the film could have been as a whole. It lacks in any genuine emotional breakthroughs or engrossing conflicts, and the notion that it’s a semi-comedy is an unfortunate afterthought. The charm of the characters makes up for it, and I recommend it especially for those who want something on the more light and mellow side.
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