[FILM: Review] Submarine
Opens September 8
When young British actor Craig Roberts signed up to play the lead in Submarine, director Richard Ayoade gave him four films to watch in preparation: Rushmore, The Graduate, The Squid & The Whale and Harold & Maude. Their influence is clear in Submarine, both in the hyper-styled retro-kitsch of the production design and in the subject matter itself. All four movies are about awkward young men, too smart for their own good and too nerdy to fit in with those around them, finding their way in the world and experiencing a sexual awakening. It’s well-trodden ground, and while many filmmakers take it on, few can find anything really new to say. Submarine, however, proves to be a worthy addition to the canon.
Roberts stars as Oliver Tate – thoughtful and handsome, but still kind of a weirdo, he spends most of his time getting beaten up by bullies and chasing Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Page), the love of his young life. Winning Jordana’s heart is easier than Oliver thought, but just when things are going his way, his mum (Sally Hawkins) takes up with old flame Graham (Paddy Considine). In the tradition of unworldly teenagers everywhere, Oliver decides that it’s up to him to save his parents’ crumbling marriage. The bulk of the film deals, in a whimsical sort of fashion, with his attempts to balance the demands of his first real relationship with his need to sabotage the flashy, charismatic Graham.
Submarine is Ayoade’s debut feature as a director, but he has extensive experience in TV, appearing in such comedies as The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and music videos, directing clips for Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. His odd sensibilities are a great fit for this particular story. The scenes of Oliver and Jordana’s blossoming love are shot in gorgeous Super 8, as the young actors run around a beach with sparklers, and this is the first of many highly creative visual touches. Ayoade also recognised the comic gifts of his cast, and allowed them some space to improvise and play around with their dialogue – this shows through particularly with Considine, who is manic and hilarious as Graham. Submarine has a lot of heart, but it’s never sentimental or silly; as modern coming-of-age movies go, it’s one of the best.