With the increase in international entertainment becoming distributed by mainstream production companies, more and more British films are becoming popular, and allowing smaller films to be made because of the increase in funding. One of those films is the adorably quirky Submarine, which was written and directed by comedian Richard Ayoade. It proved to be one of the most endearing and enjoyable little films I’ve seen in a long time.
Taking a lot from the French New Wave, Ayoade tells the story of Oliver Tate, a teenaged boy from Wales who lives with his parents, who have a passive aggressive marriage of convenience. Oliver is a boy who has a mind and personality much older than his mere fifteen years. He is absolutely in love with Jordana, a rebellious free-spirit with a penchant for causing trouble. Oliver will go to absolutely all extents to prove his love to Jordana, who in turn does everything she can to exploit her boyfriend’s gullible nature. It is such a simple story told in the most beautifully complex and delightful way, where Ayoade makes the film feel more like a giddy daydream than an actual tangible movie.
Its always so much fun to discover an unknown talent in a movie, and independent films such as Submarine offer so many opportunities for light to be shone on unknown actors. Roberts is perfect for the role of Oliver – dorky, shy and just a little bit too awkward, he is the perfect embodiment of the old soul a lot of us felt we were in high school. Through Ayoade’s writing and directing, and Roberts’ understanding of the character, Oliver never becomes that insanely nerdy character a lot of mainstream films tend to portray. Unlike so many other dorky movie characters, Oliver is not at all detached from reality – he may not be popular or have many friends, but he is a patient and observant young man, and probably more than most people understands society – he may not know how to fit into it, but he certainly knows how it works. It is in that way that he is able to pull off some truly cunning schemes throughout the film to get what he wants. Roberts’ career could either go two ways – he could fade into obscurity and be known only for his amazing performance here, or he could continue to build up a reputation as a dedicated young actor. He’s had some small roles in bigger productions, so hopefully he continues to act and hopefully will get more recognition.
Oliver’s parents are the true scene-stealers of Submarine. Noah Taylor as Lloyd and Sally Hawkins as Jill are the most adorably bitter couple, who only stay together for…well, I have no idea why they stay together (they pay no attention to their son anyway), but they are both in a deep depression and angst, having no idea where to go with their marriage. Jill is getting flirty with their free-spirited self-help guru neighbor, while Lloyd deals with the banalities of being a university professor. They are so strangely stiff and lifeless, yet so endearing. I think they represent the fact that marriage can fade a little bit after time, and that it isn’t passion-fueled romance like it was at the beginning. In a way, their marriage mirrors Oliver and Jordana’s relationship – it starts out passionate and adorable, but over time, the spark disappears if you are not careful.
Ayoade truly does something wonderful with the story of Oliver Tate. The film is filled with bright colors, strange scenery and some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen. Ayoade captures the essence of eras of filmmaking such as the silent era and the French New Wave, telling us a story both through snappy, quirky writing and beautiful visual filmmaking. It is a perfect combination of a story being fully realized by the filmmaking process.
Submarine is a strange film – it isn’t like any other film of its type. It feels a lot like early Wes Anderson, but it is a lot simpler and more true to the heart of the story. It is a delightful coming-of-age comedy, but also a very potent reminder of the importance of youth and pursuing what you want when you’re young so you don’t regret it when its too late.
I adored Submarine – it has so much heart and a lot of effort went into it, from writing the extraordinarily wonderful screenplay to making the film look as dreamy and unique as it does. Craig Roberts is absolutely stellar in the lead role, and the film is a hidden gem, and one that will only improve upon subsequent viewings. Such a beautifully made and soulfully unique little film.