Everybody comes of age some time or another, and if you haven’t learned that from personal experience yet, movies will take the burden off you, because every director makes a coming-of-age film at some time or another, too. On the one hand, that much focus on particular point of life means a lot of it is going to be mediocre, if not out-and-out bad. On the other hand, the sheer number of versions of the story make originality a tough reach, automatically putting the filmmaker at a disadvantage.

Which makes it easy to seem to overhype something like Richard Ayoade‘s Submarine when it comes along. A little bit of eccentricity and wit can go a long way, and after a desert of weak offerings, it’s easy to get lost in the moment of finding something interesting and proclaim it greater than it is, only later finding out there’s not much beneath the surface.

Submarine is all about what’s beneath the surface, which is really saying something considering how interesting and eccentric that surface is.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is trying as hard as he can to keep his head above water. That’s a difficult exercise when you’re an introspective Welsh boy whose introspective marine biologist father (Noah Taylor) and extremely open secretary mother (Sally Hawkins) continually push and pull you between extremes of how to approach the world. It’s a push and pull which becomes even more acute when Mother Tate’s old boyfriend (Paddy Considine) moves in next door, prompting Oliver to worry that the end of his parents’ marriage — and with it, his childhood — is nigh.

This could easily be, and has been, extremely dark and dreary and depressing, but comedian turned music video director Ayoade will have none of that, attacking every dark side of adolescence with wit and charm. Wit and charm born of pain, to be sure, but funny is funny. It’s particularly impressive considering how little of the pain of life he shies away from. Nothing this icky should be so charming.

It reminds me of nothing so much of a young Jeunet or Wes Anderson film but with no cynicism, just an occasional facade of cynicism; a facade Oliver wears to protect himself from the pain of life but which he can never entirely convince himself of.

Ayoade has taken the old chestnut about each of us being the stars of the film of our life and played it out to its logical artistic extremes. Submarine is literally a film about Oliver, the one playing in his head all the time, analyzing each little movement and action and phrase. Sometimes Oliver is the hero of the piece, sometimes he is the villain, and many times he’s swept along by the tide of events, not entirely certain where the plot is taking him.

Submarine also benefits from being extremely well-composed from first-time director Ayoade, boasting strong across-the-board performances from his many young actors and a visual style that will help even the most jaded of commercial moviegoers forget they’re looking at a fairly low-budget film. A stellar score from Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner helps with that, as well, blending British garage rock and British (sorry, Welsh) garage film together into a seamless whole.

The real proof of Submarine‘s quality is not just how easily it does what it does, but how bad it makes everyone attempting the same thing and failing (and there are many of those). Hopefully Ayoade won’t get stuck in the rut of similar-minded filmmakers who have turned out to only have one story to tell, but for now he can keep his head high and above water. Submarine is a fantastic start.

Cast: Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate; Yasmin Paige as Jordana Bevan; Sally Hawkins as Jill Tate; Noah Taylor as Lloyd Tate; Paddy Considine as Graham; Gemma Chan as Kim-Lin; Steffan Rhodri as Mr. Davey; Melanie Walters as Judie Bevan.

(Film4 --; Warp Films --; Film Agency for Wales --; Red Hour Films; The Weinstein Company --; Submarine --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, July 1st, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

H-Town Mixtape

Upcoming Shows



Recent Posts


Our Sponsors