At my elementary school there was this kid who used to run around the playground, diving to the ground, imitating the sounds of explosions with his mouth, and hiding from invisible soldiers. Apparently the people who made Son of Rambow knew this guy, as they seem to have depicted him perfectly in their film. And what a film it is.
It is about a childhood imagination, aspiration, and inspiration. Son of Rambow feels like what it feels like to be a kid, to go AWOL, to hide in the trenches of the mind, to play without chains or any other constraints. The film's tagline, "Make believe, not war," pretty much sums up the film.
As far as filmmaking goes, the ideas are top shelf, and often laugh-out-loud funny. It breaks down for me a few spots though: There are some elements that get away from the filmmaker -- that end up feeling incohesive or incoherent because they lack explanation. Midway through the film, the entire movie takes a turn into a narrative netherworld as well, leaving the viewer (i.e. me) thinking "No, no. The film is over here. It's not over there. Come back to me." Yep, "Come back to me," just like Atonement. All the same, the film ends up in the right place, and I suppose that's what matters.
The kids who act in this thing are just pure joy to watch. They are brilliant and, in many ways, it's like watching an idealized version of your younger self in action, doing all the things you think you remember doing, or at least doing all the things you wish you could have done.
As a film it belongs to a recent rash of meta-films such as The Amateurs and Be Kind Rewind -- films about films that remind the viewer, "Hey! This is a film!" On top of that, they also truly capture the magic of film and remind the viewer that this film, in particular, is especially magical. Highly recommended. A flawed but fun foray into childhood.