Director – Richard Ayoade
Starring – Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor
Release Date – 18th March
Submarine is the debut directorial feature of Richard Ayoade, best known for playing the nerdy ‘Moss’ on The I.T Crowd. It is a coming of age film dealing with a shy teenager awkwardly attempting to romance the girl he likes. Now that may sound like just about any Michael Cera film of the past three years, but rest assured that this is no Judd Apatow production.
Oliver Tate is a fifteen year-old boy in love with his classmate Jordana. The film is split into five parts and the first two deals almost exclusively with Oliver’s attempts to win Jordana’s heart. The young boy gets the girl surprisingly early and we grow to like the two leads as we watch their relationship develop realistically and believably.
The next three parts of the film focus more on Oliver’s fears over his parents failing relationship, and it feels like a shift from a romantic comedy to a more serious family drama. The change in tone is strong, sudden and as such it can feel like two different films featuring the same characters. We learn more about the characters in the more dramatic section, but the change is jarring and the films biggest flaw.
The Welsh sea-side setting is shot beautifully. Abandoned amusement parks and industrial estates become scenes of blossoming romance, particularly in a touching firework-fuelled montage. Ayoade shows great promise as a director and utilises sound particularly well to build tension in two key scenes.
When Oliver’s parents first find out about his new relationship, his father tries to give him some advice. The scene is played perfectly as the actors create just the right amount of hilarious awkwardness and it quickly draws comparisons to American Pie. Where Eugene Levy gave the definitive ‘awkward dad’ performance in that film, that’s about all he did.
This is what sets Submarine apart from the flood of American teen comedies we’ve seen recently; there are no simple caricatures. Every character is fully rounded and believable – Oliver’s father isn’t just awkward, he’s shy and depressed, which causes his awkwardness, and we can see echoes of this in Oliver. Jordana isn’t perfect, she’s a manipulative pyromaniac and we even discover why when her own family life is revealed.
The film’s biggest asset is the surprising realist portrayal of the principal characters. They are deeply immature, and when faced with a massive emotional hurdle, Oliver falls, just as realistically and painfully as any fifteen-year old boy would in real life.
In a Nutshell: A jarring shift in tone aside, this is a great beginning to a promising career.