In 1982, Will Proudfoot (newcomer Bill Milner) is a small-for-his-age, 11- or 12-year-old living in England with his mother, grandmother and sister. The family belongs to a religious group called The Brethren, which forbids television, movies, pop music or friendships outside the fold. Will, whose father died a year or two before, processes his loneliness and subterranean grief by externalizing it onto the pages of his Bible with colored-pencil drawings.
By chance, Will meets his school’s resident hell-raiser, Lee Carter (Will Poulter), who is living under his own set of repressive life circumstances. Lee is making a short film with his older brother’s video camera, and enlists Will to be the stuntman. Together, the two fatherless boys evolve the story of the “Son of Rambow,” who must save his dad from the clutches of an evil scarecrow.
Things are dangerous but fun until French exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk) and his gang of cronies decide they want to be immortalized on VHS and take over the production, which drives a wedge between Will and Lee.
Aside from Will and Lee’s friendship, what makes “Son of Rambow” really work is its symmetrical illustration of the dogmatic similarities between The Brethren and the cool kids. On one side, The Brethren alienate Will from the world, but the cool kids are just as divisive in their conformist demands and shallow adherence to hipness, alienating Will from those who care about him.
Essentially a childhood’s-end story, “Son of Rambow” also draws some scathing parallels between religious conformity and the blind-faith hipness symptomatic of mass culture’s influence on youth.