Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, which screened recently at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, probably affected me more than any other film I’ve seen so far. Its humorous depiction of a young man struggling to get through his teenage years was so authentic, heartfelt, and moving that it vividly evoked all the trials, tribulations, and thrills of my own younger years in a way I was not prepared for.
Hit the jump for some of my thoughts and for a video blog on the film.
Submarine opens with a voiceover from its protagonist, Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), immersing us into his enclosed little world and keeping us there for the film’s entire runtime. Oliver is eccentric and full of idiosyncrasies, sometimes painfully so. He lives a life filled with elaborate, dream-like fantasies. All of this makes his chances at landing a girlfriend difficult at best. Nonetheless, through a series of unexpected events, classmate Jordana (Yasmine Paige) becomes interested in him and the two share a lovely teen romance. In the meantime, Oliver works desperately to prevent the disintegration of his parents’ (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) rocky marriage.
What makes Submarine shine is the committed performance of newcomer Craig Roberts and Ayoade’s willingness to let the story venture into some dark territory. There are developments in Oliver’s life that would overcome even 20 or 30-year-0lds with paralyzing fear. Oliver makes some horrible choices, but it’s a treacherous learning process that we all go through, and the film’s ability to recall it makes Oliver imminently relatable. That Oliver is able to endure this period is a testament to the awesome resilience of children.
Those who know Ayoade from The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh won’t be surprised that he’s able to nail the tone of this film and deliver some great laughs. But the fact that Ayoade’s directorial debut is so full of life and so true-to-life promises what I hope will be an amazing career in feature films.
Here is our video review of Submarine, which also features Dustin from Pajiba and Raffi and Dan from The Film Stage, shot in glorious shaky-cam by Jordan of The Film Stage. For an alternate take, be sure to also check out Peter’s review of this film from TIFF.