Was it just me or did most people grow up believing in the back of their minds that they where the stars of their own movie? For the sixteen year old Oliver Tate this happens to be the case, as the lead character in Richard Ayoade’s new feature debut Submarine, based on the book by Joe Dunthone. The movie which played at a number of film festivals has been picking up speed since its debut at Sundance, and has proven a success in both the UK as well as the US as the Weinstein Brother’s have picked it up for one million dollars.
Set in Swansea, in an undisclosed time period the movie follows Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) an over-thinking adolescent whose biggest worries are keeping his parents Jill (Sally Hawkins) and Lloyd (Noah Taylor) dying marriage together, whilst trying to woo an anti-romantic girl in his class Jordana (Yasmin Paige). For Oliver it appears he is having a sort of mid-life crisis (even at the young age of sixteen) as he pulls all the strings of his life together, but on the arrival of new next door neighbour Graham (Paddy Constantine), an old flame of his mother’s, Oliver’s depressed dad begins to lose interest in saving the marriage which proves harder then he first expected.
Submarine is the story of a boy trying to grow up before his time. Whilst attempting to keep his family life together, he bullies the easy target at school to impress Jordana. His almost selfish tendencies do become comical as he imagines the repercussions of his death whilst bored in school. The dark subjects of the movie are made comical whilst keeping the respect they deserve, which is shown in one scene as a timid Oliver sits uncomfortably eating dinner around Jordana’s house as the family cry over the possible death of Jordana’s mother after being diagnosed with cancer.
The film has also been compared to the works of Wes Anderson and Francis Truffaut and it is easy to see why as the film holds its heart on its sleeve. Its kooky edge will be appealing to some but annoying to others who aren’t so much a fan of American Indie cinema or the French New Wave, however the film is extremely funny in a way that will please all.
Richard Ayoade (whose popularity arose whilst he played Moss in The IT Crowd as well as Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) really has done an impressive job as the film looks timeless whilst mixing in 16mm footage of Oliver and Jordana’s blossoming love. Accompanying the two naïve teenagers is a soundtrack by Arctic Monkey’s lead Alex Turner, which is a slow and gentle collection of melancholy tunes which is worth listening to outside of the movie. This all adds to a film about young love which many of us expected and wanted all the while, consistent with the theme of girls growing up faster then boys.
All in all Submarine is an unbelievably cool and funny British flick which has a lot of staying power. The funny moments are highlighted by the artistic visuals and witty voiceover of an adolescent teenager fighting to grow up, much like Jim in Rebel without a Cause. The film is likely to entertain all, even though nods to Rohmer, Truffaut and Anderson will fly over most audiences’ heads.
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