Making the Grades
Foreign films often offer a fresh take on storylines and introduce interesting new faces and views. Such is the case with Son of Rambow, the tale of two unlikely schoolmates who set out to make a home movie based on Sylvester Stallone's Rambo character.
The first boy is Lee Carter (Will Poulter), a holy terror who spends more time in detention than class. While his mother and stepfather gallivant around Europe, Lee and his brother Lawrence (Ed Westwick) live a life unfettered by parents. A storage room in their house is full of items Lee has unabashedly stolen from teachers, students and businesses.
Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is also fatherless. Growing up in a strict religious setting, he is not allowed to watch TV, listen to music or participate in other activities with the "worldies" in his class. Then a mishap at school sends both boys to the principal's office and the two students begin an uncomfortable friendship.
Although they come from very different upbringings, both share a creative flair. Will relentlessly scribbles pictures in his scriptures, on the wall of the bathroom and in his workbooks. Lee, on the other hand, has a penchant for making movies and after seeing the imaginative characters Will has created, he bullies the quiet but highly imaginative little boy into being a stuntman for him.
For Will (whose first exposure to movies is a sneak peak at a pirated version of First Blood) the opportunity to act on his imagination is too good to refuse. However, he has to lie profusely to his mother (Jessica Hynes) and another member (Neil Dudgeon) of his congregation in order to miss out on his church meetings. Regrettably, before long he also imitates Lee's proclivity for stealing.
Making a home video for a screen test contents presents the creative premise in which the boys explore the world around them and tackle the challenges of growing up. Will repeatedly tries to find the balance between the teachings in his home life and his newfound love of acting. Unfortunately the heavy-handed depiction of religion fails to show even a glimmer of good in the organization that seeks to protect its youth. Meanwhile Lee faces a moment of difficulty when he realizes his "stuntman" has become the hero of the film and that the other students think of Will as a quasi celebrity. Rather than being held accountable for any of his misdeeds, Lee's lack of parenting is also used an excuse for his bad behavior, freeing him of any consequences or opportunities to grow. Some violent, and very imitable interactions are depicted when the children viciously throw rocks at a classmate, engage in reckless stunts and smoke on several occasions.
With a unique set of characters and circumstances, Son of Rambow has the potential to entertain a wide range of audiences. Nevertheless for children, the positive messages about friendship and passion are muddied by unnecessary cruelty, moments of peril and too much justification for criminal activity.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Son of Rambow.
In what ways does Will show empathy for his classmates? Do you think his religious upbringing contributes to his compassionate nature?
How does the film build sympathy for Lee’s character? While some of his actions might be understandable, what are the consequences of letting his actions go unpunished? Why does he say he’s better off without parents?
What are the social structures of the different peer groups in this movie? How do students’ standings change depending on whom they are with?