Drawing on his own childhood fascination with 1982 classic Rambo: First Blood, writer-director Garth Jennings (Hitchhiker's Guide) presents the improbably whimsical coming-of-age yarn Son Of Rambow. Young newcomer Bill Milner brims with infectious enthusiasm as shy ten-year-old Will who escapes the confines of a strict religious upbringing by re-enacting the macho exploits of Sly Stallone in the English countryside. He is recruited by Will Poulter, playing school outcast Lee Carter, and together they cheerfully set the screen on fire.
It's a grudging partnership at first. Carter desperately needs an actor for the film that he hopes will win him the BBC Screen Test competition. Since he's a rebel loner with no friends and Will is much smaller than he is, he basically bullies him into the job. But Will is easily swayed, especially after catching a glimpse of Sly tearing up the Vietnam jungle on pirate video, and he soon dons dirty vest and bandana and reports for duty in local woods. Sadly it's not long before his smothering mum (Jessica Hynes) and her Plymouth Brethren are threatening to pull the plug.
"THEIR RAPPORT FEELS TOTALLY AUTHENTIC"
A joyous spirit of mischief is ever-present and Jennings has an eye for brilliant visual gags too, like the spectacle of a small boy being catapulted in a homemade stunt. It's an impressive balancing act for the director who invokes the shock impact of First Blood whilst preserving Will's innocence - until the film's endgame, in which both boys are forced to grow up. Crucially, their rapport feels totally authentic, so beyond the belly laughs and sunny 80s nostalgia, this is a portrait of friendship which is truly tender and moving. Jules Sitruk as a French exchange student (and movie star wannabe) is pure comedie, although he can sometimes be a distraction too. Animated segments venture further off the beaten track but do create a vivid picture of Will's fantasy life. Tune in and let your inner child run amok.
Son Of Rambow is out in the UK on 4th April 2008.