Given the renewed interest in Stallone's 'Rambo', Garth Jennings' fine coming of age story of two unlikely friends in 1980s Britain could become a sleeper hit at the British box office, if only because of its enticing title.
Favourably compared to 'Billy Elliot', Jennings' tale involves two kids at opposite ends of the spectrum. Will Proudfoot (Milner) is the heroic figure of the film's title and a subdued mild-mannered boy whose single parent household is governed by the rules of a strict religious sect. Not allowed to watch TV or mix with others his age, Will's curious imagination pours out quietly in his wildly elaborate drawings in notebooks or on toilet walls.
By contrast wild child Lee Carter (Poulter) is a minor school bully, constantly causing trouble in the classroom. The only person he respects is his disinterested older brother who is the only paternal figure in his life. With his wealthy parents out of the country, he has the run of his huge house.
The two boys are thrown together by chance, with Carter enlisting naïve Will to help with a film he's making for an amateur competition. Stumbling upon a pirate copy of 'First Blood', Will is introduced to his first television/video experience and is enthralled by this other world which lets loose his imagination. Declaring himself the 'Son of Rambow', his enthusiasm excites Carter and the two embark on a series of 'Huck and Tom' adventures.
As Will covertly rebels against his upbringing, a series of secondary stories play out. Will's mum (Stevenson) becomes the subject of attention from the head of the religious sect (Dudgeon), while a French exchange programme sees the hilarious arrival of the self-consciously chic Didier (Sitruk), who attracts a host of admiring followers within the school.
Director Jennings brings much humour and warmth to 'Son of Rambow' and it's an impossible film not to like. As one half of production duo Hammer & Tongs (they made Blur's famous 'milk carton' video for 'Coffee & TV') there is much visual dabbling on screen, though special effects are kept to a minimum.
The film's characters are well-rounded with the underlying theme being of having to act out to be noticed, or to create a new personality – Will that of 'Son of Rambow; Lee that of the tough kid, and Didier that of the French stereotype. In truth all three are loners in their own way.
In all 'Son of Rambow' is a warm, funny and entertaining film with a big heart and one which will have you mentally applauding it all the way to its tender finish.