Submarine (2011) – Review

Richard Ayoade's first feature length beautifully captures 1980's British life in Submarine...

Proving he can do so much more than drink milk and kick ass, The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade bursts onto the British film scene with his impressive directorial debut, Submarine. In addition to proving himself pretty handy behind the camera, showing vision and imagination, Ayoade also proves himself as a fine screenwriter. Basing the script on the Joe Dunthorne novel of the same name, Ayoade’s script oozes style, perfectly blending hilarious comedy and touching drama.

Submarine is the 80’s coming-of-age story of Oliver Tate, played weirdly wonderful by Craig Roberts. The plot of a tortured, socially awkward (but destined for great things in his own mind) teen, on a quest to lose his virginity isn’t particularly original. The package Ayoade wraps however, provides something very fresh. Do not be led astray by the advertising of Submarine that suggests this film is just about a teenage boy trying to lose his virginity and keep his parents together, it is much more than that. These are just subtle driving forces, allowing us to explore Oliver Tate, one of the greatest British comedy film characters of the last ten years.

The film starts as an offbeat, somewhat surreal comedy, following the misunderstood ‘prominent thinker’ Oliver Tate. Worried by the fact his parents are no longer having sex, (he has a system for checking) Oliver sets his sights on Jordana Bevan, in a quest to have some sex of his own. What we then get, up until the hilarious evening of seduction is light-hearted comedy, with the strange young protagonist the main point of laughter.

After the said evening, with Oliver and Jordana now a very likeable little couple, the film takes a turn and becomes a tragic-comedy, finding comedy in dark themes such as depression, terminal illness and, of course, Mrs. Tate (another solid Sally Hawkins performance)’s infidelities with the mystic next door, played as well as could be by Paddy Considine. The film at this point becomes so much more than a comedy and the scenes in which Oliver is there (and sometimes not there) for Jordana are truly moving. Ayoade still however, finds comedy in the darkest of themes. This is demonstrated when an angry Oliver breaks into Graham the mystic’s house and uses urine and arson as a means of revenge.

Submarine ticks all the boxes. It is a great story with great characters and is beautifully shot. Ayoade achieves both style and substance, demonstrating that he is not afraid to try a few little tricks with his direction. The freeze frame, slow motion, blacked out soliloquies and the new wave jump cut are all visible in the film, provoking critics to yell ‘pretentious’. Ayoade even has a little fun with his style, zooming out at the exact point the protagonist complains the biopic of his life would use a zoom out as a budget would not allow a crane shot. If this isn’t enough to get people in the cinemas then it is also worth mentioning that the Arctic Monkeys front man, Alex Turner, has contributed five original songs to the film, all of which work very well. A truly fantastic British debut.

Best performance: Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate.
Best scene: Oliver’s evening of seduction. ‘To us, and a wonderful evening of love-making.’
Best line: Oliver – ‘I was crying earlier, my eyes are probably red’.
Jordana – ‘They look fine!’
Oliver – ‘Oh, well maybe they don’t go red when I cry then’.
Watch this if you liked: British Television such as The IT Crowd, Peep Show and The Inbetweeners.

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