Making magnificent use of the Laotian landscape and tribal traditions, Australian director Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket is a coming-of-age tale infused with fantastic elements that more than compensate for its predictability.
In every set of twins lives a curse, according to tribal elders. Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) survived childbirth while his sibling was stillborn, but even this good fortune is dampened by beliefs that all but brandish him a bad seed from the womb.
He spends the entirety of his youth trying to unburden himself from this shadow, constantly attempting to prove his worth and goodness to his parents and grandmother.
When his mother dies during a freak accident for which he appears responsible, Ahlo sets out to make something of himself and finally disprove the superstitions of an older generation. The remaining members of the impoverished family set across Laos in the hopes of some shelter and a bit of security.
A rocket-building competition offers one last chance for unity, reward, and prestige, and even though you know who the winner will likely be, the material is so much fun that you’ll likely root for Ahlo and his relatives anyway.
The Rocket‘s ample pleasures come from Mordaunt localizing this tested formula rather than trying to reinvent it.