Submarine (2011)

Oliver Tate, a fifteen year old introvert from Swansea, has set himself two objectives. First, he must lose his virginity before the arrival of his next birthday. Second, he must save his parents crumbling marriage at any cost. As he tries to achieve these tasks, hindered as always by his bizarre outlook on life, Oliver must also deal with everything else that is thrown at him. Namely, an incredibly talented director, an accomplished cast and a scripts loaded with wit and Ayoade-grade awkwardness.

I am sitting here at a complete loss for good things to say about Richard Ayoade’s critical darling, Submarine. Sure, is was very good, but I’m not marking a piece of his GCSE Chemistry homework, I’m trying to persuade you to see his film. While I agree with the majority of reviews that is a spellbindingly competent directorial début that showcases a wonderful competency, a delightful visual style and an engaging take on the source material, I am rendered speechless, not through the film’s overwhelming majesty, but by the need to get specific.

But Submarine is very good. Featuring an array of outstanding performances, Craig Roberts stands tallest as Oliver Tate, our conflicted hero who treads the line between obsessive outcast and potential serial killer beautifully. Taking a difficult role and making it his own, the character is every bit as compelling as he is neurotic. Navigating his own delusional universe in much the same way as one Scott Pilgrim, Submarine is both charming and touching as his expectations manipulate the cinematography in a dazzling disregard for the fourth wall and he learns to his own personal displeasure that life is not like an American television drama.

Around him, Yasmin Page and Noah Taylor prove the pounding heart behind Oliver’s whirring mind. Page manages to appear wise beyond her years while simultaneously naive and vulnerable. Taylor, meanwhile, exudes a ghostly presence as the family’s despondent patriarch, forever sipping on hot lemon while trying to hide behind his considerable beard. Sally Hawkins and Paddy Constantine are similarly excellent, although their relationship never really strikes an emotional chord (though how much this has to do with our protagonist’s stunted emotionality it is difficult to say).

What struck me most about Submarine, however, was how tempered it all was. Clever rather than funny, touching rather than moving and accomplished rather than breathtaking, the film was surprisingly insubstantial for something so apparently deep and meaningful. Although the score and title-card distinguished segments were in keeping with the film’s relatability, it’s portrayal of coming-of-age often crushingly apt, they did little to shift the enjoyment-hindering melancholy which settled in after the character’s novel self-absorption begins to lose momentum. In fact, given how sign-posted the film is, it is distracting just how unstructured it actually is, how often it drops plot-points often without resolution: whatever happened to the girl Oliver pushed into the quagmire? While none of these criticisms are disparaging, they are the best I can do to explain how cold it invariably left me. On the other hand, given the film’s subject matter, maybe this is the point.

Submarine is an incredibly well made film, a tantalising glimpse of Ayoade’s talent and hopefully only a taster for things to come. It is an esteemed amalgam of smilesome smarts, intriguing self-awareness and impressive performances that creates a wonderfully despondent Wales. Far from riotous or life-affirming, however, Submarine is there to be seen and heard but rarely felt.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Submarine (2011)

  1. Pingback: March 2011 – You made me…a period mix? « popcornaddict

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