Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Sally Hawkins
Synopsis: Oliver Tate (Roberts) is a teenager growing up in a period much like the ’80s in the UK, though the time is never specifically stated. The film is his first person reflection on his life, his parents splintering relationship, and his relationship with girl of his dreams, Jordana Bevan (Paige).
I was interested in this film initially given the involvement of writer and director Richard Ayoade, whom many would be familiar with as Moss from the IT Crowd. In addition to this, I had read some interesting articles on the film which did generate a curiosity in me to see it. The experience I had as a result was the enjoyment of an independent oddity that, though quirky, covers some very relevent reflections on the human condition.
The structure of this film is something that sets it apart. The setting is far from modern-day, and it is shot in such a way that invokes a true feeling of the 80s. At times there is a jerky, Super 8 feel to the filming, and title cards separating segments of the film add to this effect. My impression of the film then was of memories being recalled and shared, with the passing of time taking the sharp edges off of the memory, but the significance of the events keeping said memory alive.
Roberts is amazing as our narrator and guide Oliver Tate. He is far from bein an ordinary child, with our introduction to him being imagining the response to his own death. He is prone to such musings throughout the film, each of them increasingly bizarre, and yet somehow relatable. There is comedy in these musings, somewhat black at times, yet Oliver remains an engaging subject throughout. His problems are not unusual for a teenager. Whether it be the first awkward fumblings in a relationship, or spying on parents so that he can try to save their marriage, it is clear to see his personality is a product of his environment. His romance, though it does follow the trajectory of love, loss, and regain, is told in a unique way to make it feel familiar but fresh at the same time. Despite his intelligence, he is also prone to some terrible mistakes, yet even at these times Roberts manages to maintain audience sympathy even throughout audience condemnation.
The supporting players are uniformly on top form, Paige plays Jordana as a very different love interest. She is often aloof, she shies away from what some would call true romance, yet she is also often the aggressor, the dominant partner in the relationship. Paige is required to show a range of emotions through the film, and can sometimes do it with a small alteration in her often purposefully blank gaze. Taylor and Hawkins, both of them very amiliar on independent film grounds are quirky parents that are in crises. Like Oliver, they both make grave mistakes in their relationship with each other, yet neither one of them is ever the subject of greater condemnation. Considine is the wedge in their relationship, Oliver’s mother’s former flame, and his groovy guru type character introduces its own comedy, and he does make a brilliant contrast to Taylor’s depressing character.
It would be difficult to claim that Submarine will win over every audience. Some may consider the pace plodding, and the tonality overbearing and perhaps to arts for its own good. I believe that anyone who allows themselves to enter Oliver’s world and embrace it will quite enjoy the experience. I know I did.
4 stars out of 5