Brigsby Bear looks at the joys of DIY filmmaking and almost here! Buy your tickets now!
Do you remember the movie that made you love movies? Mine was Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. I saw it when I was about seven or eight, and it’s a memory I have photographic recall of. I remember who I saw it with (my cousins), where we watched it (my aunt and uncle’s den), what the room looked like, and even what we ate (Hot ‘n Now burgers).
Most importantly, I remember the feeling I got watching that movie. It was this simultaneous rush of finding something special, and the immediate urge to share it with everyone I knew. It’s the same feeling that I seek to replicate every time I write or talk about films. Falling in love with a movie isn’t unlike falling in love with a person. It’s a transformative experience that inspires joy and conversation and creativity all at once, in a way that’s so overwhelming, you aren’t sure which reaction to go with first.
Anyone who’s had that feeling can recognize it immediately when young Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) first lays eyes on First Blood in Garth Jennings’ 1980s-set film Son of Rambow. Will is hiding out in new friend Lee Carter’s (Will Poulter) shed, watching a pirated version of the movie on Lee’s VCR. Because Will’s super-conservative religious sect forbids him from watching movies, this is the first film he’s ever seen. After he watches it, Jennings shows Will tearing across a field, yelling and jumping like a man possessed. Or, perhaps more accurately, like a man in love.
Son of Rambow, which tells the story of Will and Lee’s attempt to film their own sequel to First Blood, is a movie all about that feeling. It’s about how the art we love transports us outside of our circumstances. It’s also about how the desire to capture and preserve the sensation of pop culture euphoria bears fruit in creative endeavors of our own, connecting us with new people, experiences and ideas along the way.
At the start of the film, Will and Lee are both living unhappy lives. Will is an imaginative kid stuck with a family and religious culture that suppresses his artistic expression. He finds an outlet wherever he can, drawing pictures in his bible and on the walls of the school bathroom. Lee has lots of creative energy, too, but with absentee parents, and a brother who barely pays him any attention, he’s got nowhere to direct it.
A chance encounter in their school hallway leads Lee to recruit Will as a stuntman in a film he’s making to enter a contest. The shared inspiration of First Blood brings our two young heroes together creatively, using their different abilities (Will’s imagination, Lee’s natural ingenuity) to complement each other. The boys’ bond helps them escape the disappointments and rigidity of their lives and build their own world, complete with blood brotherhoods, thrilling stunts and flying dogs.
On a meta level, even the production elements of Son of Rambow play into the story’s DIY values. The movie’s simple effects, continuity errors and occasional inclusion of period-inaccurate music, cars and other items are more charming than distracting, as are cameos by Jennings’ buddies (and fellow UK indie entertainment heroes) Edgar Wright and Adam Buxton. It suggests that the director is coming from the same place as his young heroes. The only difference is that he has a slightly larger budget.
Son of Rambow is chock-full of childlike wonder and inventiveness, as well as some touching moments about the non-movie-related experiences that shape our lives. But it never loses the theme of chasing that magic spark we get from the art we love. Trying to capture that feeling of unbridled happiness at encountering movies, books, or anything we connect with, is the seed that inspires creators of all stripes, whether they’re fanfiction writers, blockbuster directors, or film critics. Our inspirations help us bond with new friends and collaborators.The film’s story, and the film itself, are reminders that if we try hard enough and stay true to that passion, the stuff we love can help us make something that might just inspire someone else.