Submarine (2011)

Written & Directed by Richard Ayoade

We have all been there. We have all been 15, unless you are not 15 yet, in which case I have underestimated my reading audience (or is that overestimate?). Whatever the case may be, we have all been there I’m pretty sure. That stage in life where being cool in school and having a boyfriend/girlfriend is paramount to popularity. Even if some of us, me included, decided it would be cooler to pass up this stage and scoff at the situation of others; we still yearned for it in some manner. So I’ll tell you what, why don’t we sit down and write a movie about this and set it in Wales and add as much quirk and indie cliche as we can and we’ll have a charmer of a movie. We shall call it Submarine, or better, Richard Ayoade will call it that.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is the 15 year old boy in question, and he has gained a bit of a liking for his classmate Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige). The two form a bond over some good schoolyard bullying after Jordana uses him to upset an ex-boyfriend. After the incident Oliver stands up for Jordana’s honor in front of the whole class, which earns him the sought after girlfriend. But soon Oliver finds himself trying to keep his parents together as well when one of his mother’s old flames, the mystic Graham (Paddy Considine) moves in next door. He is forced to choose between the two, not having enough time and energy in the day to keep his parents together and comfort Jordana over the declining condition of her cancer riddled mother.

I knew I would be in for it when the film opened with a note from it’s protagonist, written directly to the audience. This break of the fourth wall, which was never again used unless you count Oliver’s narration, seems completely unnecessary and the letter only serves to introduce the wealth of quirk to come. The story continues on with a wave of circumstances that are only glimpses of truth, drowned in the comedic bliss of its writer/director, who thinks these “unique” situations are funny and endearing. I was never really fully involved with the story, and part of that is the cliche ridden script, but it mostly had to do with the fairly bland story being told which was not aided by the strange touches put to it.

For instance, the very serious situation of Jordana’s mother having a brain tumor is completely underplayed, which really felt off, even if we are talking about maladjusted teenagers who don’t know how to deal with the situation anyway. Also, having Mrs. Tate’s old temptation being some bizarre mystic seems too over the top for the story. The style of editing also peeved me a bit because of the cinematography, which is actually quite good. The way the film as cut however, many of those beautiful images were criminally underplayed in favor of a few moments of reflection which come up vacant of any emotion. I feel like I am ripping this movie apart, but it is not my intention to hate on it as much as I maybe already have.

I was disappointed and bored with the film, that is true, but it certainly has some redeeming qualities as well. Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige seemed perfectly suited to play these characters and their performances are fun to watch. It has some nice heart and charm about it as well which stems from the indie quirk I’ve already talked about. Look, I like indie quirk, heck I might even love it, but when it gets heaped on like in this one it does become grating. But there are certainly moments that are funny, moments that are dramatic, and moments that are endearingly charming, like the final scene of the film. For people who do not like the indie touch, certainly avoid this film at all costs, otherwise it might be worth a rental and nothing more for those who are not turned off by it. Heck, I would even wager that some people would even love this film, and I wouldn’t hate them for it.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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