Two are better than one, because they have a
good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will
lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and
falls and does not have another to help. Again, if
two lie together, they keep warm; but how can
one keep warm alone? And though one might
prevail against another, two will withstand one.
A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
From the ads you might think that director Garth Jennings’ film is a spoof of the Rambo series. There is some of this, but the film is actually a tale of an unlikely friendship between two boys and liberation from a stifling religious sect. In 1980s England, under-sized Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is beset by school bully Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Will’s widowed mother Nary (Jessica Stevenson) belongs to a strict religious sect, so he has never seen a movie, whereas Lee is being raised amidst squalor by a brother who uses him like a slave. Bully is thus himself bullied by his older brother.
We see Lee in a theater secretly taping Rambo, First Blood so that he can make his own version with his camcorder. The two boys meet in the school hallway where they are sent from their classrooms—Will because his mother has sent a note excusing him from watching the science class movies, and Lee because of his acting up in the classroom. Will reluctantly at first joins Lee in his film project, assuming the role of Rambo as they stage dangerous stunts for the camera. Meanwhile a busload of French exchange students are welcomed to the school. The students, Will included, are agog at Didier (Jules Sitruk), with long black hair, cool sun glasses, skin tight black jeans and bright red, pointy-toed boots. Didier is constantly accompanied by a crowd of admiring boys and girls, catering to his every whim or need.
Will’s sneaking off to join Lee in filmmaking is made difficult by the frequent presence in his home of Joshua (Neil Dudgeon), one of the church elders whose desire to counsel and advise Nary scarcely conceals his attraction to the pretty widow. Often lecturing Will on proper conduct, he forces the boy to attend church events. As filming progresses the cast of the boys’ epic grows exponentially when Will gives in to Didier’s pleas that he and his supporters to join the cast. Lee is not pleased with this, and their friendship is ruptured when the two quarrel over the inclusion of those whom Lee considers outsiders. However, an almost tragic accident brings everything to a climax—well, almost a climax, as there is a film festival for youth into which Lee had hoped to enter his epic film. Filled with crazy, dangerous stunts that the boys think up, the film should contain a warning for young viewers, “Do not try this at home!”
For reflection/Discussion Spoilers in the following.
1) Compare Will and Lee. How are each in bondage, though in different ways? Compare Lee’s relationship to his older brother with that of the bully in How to Eat Fried Worms.
2) Do you think it is faith or fear that motivates the leaders of the religious sect to which the Proudfoots belong? What elements in the majority culture should a Christian rightly fear? But do you think that rejection and withdrawal are the best tactics in dealing with the surrounding culture?
3) How does Will’s mother Nary show that she is not comfortable entirely with her church? What really motivates Joshua’s mentoring of her and Will?
4) How does Didier influence the student body of Will’s school? Where do you think he receives his inspiration for his bizarre appearance? What do his compatriots seem to think of him, especially in comparison to the English students?
5) What do you think of the boy’s inventiveness? Of Rambo as a role model for them and their film? Many of the stunts are far-fetched: what do they show that unsupervised adolescent can lead to?
6) Where do you see “moments of grace” in the film? In the rescue; in Lee’s brother awakening; at the film festival? In Nary’s decision concerning her church?