The Rocket (2014)
Critic Consensus: A feel-good success crafted with care, Kim Mordaunt's story of two young kids in Laos is a heartfelt audience pleaser while remaining sensitive toward its subjects.
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Critic Reviews for The Rocket
In some ways, it feels like a throwback to many '80s teen movies, where everything comes down to a competition at the end, and the hero will finally get the chance to prove his worth.
It follows a search for personal salvation while painting a portrait of Laotian life that's both revealing and relatable.
A powerful, deeply moving drama about a young boy who comes to terms with the tragedies that have befallen his family by creating a thing of beauty - a gorgeous, high-flying rocket emitting triumphant bursts of color - out of refuse left by the war.
Mordaunt doesn't always succeed at balancing the sentimental, the political and the ethnographic, but at its strongest the story is a seamless melding of history's dark undertow and a child's indefatigable optimism.
Long on atmosphere and less sentimental about poverty than "Beasts of the Southern Wild," the film carries a potent charge of authenticity.
Audience Reviews for The Rocket
"Feel-good" is not really the way I would describe this dramatic film of impoverished people in the far-off Eastern country of Laos. It's a film filled with hardships, loss and the desperation of simply wanting to belong. Yes, it was a very good film but the only real 'feel-good' moment comes from its finale. Overall, a solid film but far too heavy for what I would consider feel-good.
It's a tad too inspiring, but The Rocket features some fantastic directing and cinematography held aloft by a near perfect child performance by the lead actor.
Don't know why I keep saying this but, hopefully, this will be a short review. Damn good film here, probably not as deep as it was intended to be but a very good film about a child's optimism in the face of being told that, because of his being a twin, he brings bad luck upon his family. Unfortunately for Ahlo, the boy, it seems like he does bring his family bad luck everywhere they go. That's more him being an inquisitive and resourceful child and, of course, not that he actually brings them bad luck. During one particularly crazy moment, another one of Ahlo's mischievous deeds, forces the family, and his two new friends, to move away. During their trek, they pass through war-torn Laotian villages as Uncle Purple recounts his days as a soldier and the effects the war has had on Laotian citizens as a result. The film expertly melds various subjects like this without really sacrificing the film's heart. In fact, it's very much part of it. I like that the film can very much be enjoyed by art-house audiences, looking for a good story, and a mainstream audience through its crowd-pleasing ending. This isn't always a good balance to find, but this film definitely makes it work. The acting is definitely very good, particularly from the kids...it feels completely natural and organic. Thep Phongam, as Uncle Purple, is the highlight of the film. An entertaining and memorable character, but his back-story is definitely the most interesting of all the characters. This is a guy that's trying, through his obsession with James Brown, to hold on to his youth and he sees a bit of himself in Ahlo, as he hasn't been corrupted by the world like he was when he was Ahlo's age. It's not exactly subtle storytelling, but I think it works. The film tells a very good story. It's a story that's been told many times before, but it doesn't make it any less effective. It's not the definition of a must-see, but I would certainly give it an enthusiastic recommendation.
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