The 1980s gave us the world many things - yuppies, shoulder pads, the Falklands War, and for the purposes of this review, the children's TV show Screen Test. One of the first `reality shows', it allowed kids to send their own short films into the programme, to compete against other kids, to win a plasticy, trophy thing - and more importantly, appear on TV.
So, after sneaking into a showing of First Blood, wild child Lee Carter (Will Poluter) decides he's going to win the Screen Test competition by making his own version of the Sly Stallone feature. Following a chance meeting in the school corridor, he manages to rope in the help of Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) as his leading man, throwing him into lakes and sending him flying into pits of tar. However, Will's new found pastime does not go down well with his mother (Jessica Hynes), as her family are part of the Brethren, a group which forbids it's members from watching films or television, in an attempt to insulate itself from the outside world. Although the two boys come from completely different backgrounds, both are loners, and in each other, find their `blood brother'.
The baby of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy director Garth Jennings, Son of Rambow is a semi-autobiographical account of the director's childhood. The film is a homage to the 1980s which Jennings grew up in, similar to that seen in Shane Meadow's This Is England. From the music of Depeche Mode, to the language used ("Skill" as in "Skill on toast"), right down to the minute details, such as the guide-dog-shaped charity collection boxes outside the supermarket, Jennings is transporting many of his viewers back to the age they grew up in.
The performances of Milner and Poulter, who had never acted prior to appearing in Son of Rambow, are both great. They both capture the energy and fun they experienced when they're making their film and this is transferred straight to the audience.
For Will, a young man who has to leave the classroom whenever there is an education video being shown, due to his religious beliefs, the filming of the First Blood parody gives him the chance to finally express his artistic flair, which had previously been confined to his scarp book and the boy's toilets. There is a brilliant animation sequence, where we see the drawings from Will's sketchbook come to life in the fields outside the car window. We experience his mind moving at a million miles a second, with new ideas streaming into his head. He feels invincible - something which we all felt when we were eleven years old and on a mission.
For Lee, a tough nut with a soft core (a bit like one of those Cadbury Éclairs), the Screen Test competition gives him the chance to make himself known, in a world where he has been forgotten by most.
The middle of the film is slightly flat, with the introduction of French exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk). The side story which keeps him occupied causes your attention to wane and more could have been made of this, as his character is essential to the rest of the film.
After so many spoof movies, it would be easy to be sceptical about Son of Rambow. But Jennings has produced a fantastic little film, which emphasizes the virtues camaraderie, friendship and most important of all, a wicked imagination.