Directed by Richard Ayoade
Starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine
Just what the world needs, another coming of age movie about a brooding, self centered, socially awkward teenager, of course Submarine will be different because it’s set in Wales. Funny thing, Submarine is different. Not because it’s set in Wales, which does lend it an interesting look, but because of its protagonist, Oliver.
Oliver is different. He carries a briefcase. He listens to French crooners. He reads the dictionary. He is played by Craig Roberts. Oliver starts out the movie with the time honored goal of every protagonist in a coming of age movie, he wants to get laid. Oliver is fifteen and it is imperative that he loose his virginity before he turns sixteen. The object of his teenage lust is the beautiful Jordana Beven, played by Yasmin Paige. Jordana is a bit of a bad girl. She enjoys moderate bullying, light arson, Dunhill Internationals and dogs. Oliver is infatuated. A fact that Jordana has taken note of. This is actually a break for Oliver as Jordana hatches a plan to exploit his feelings in a scheme to get back at her ex-boyfriend. Oliver does not mind being exploited in this manner because it involves Polaroids of him and Jordana kissing underneath the bridge. Jordana’s plan works; it riles her ex-boyfriend enough that he beats Oliver up when Oliver refuses to call Jordana a slut. Remember we are talking about teenagers. This endears Oliver to Jordana and shortly after they enjoy their first non blackmail kiss.
Just as Oliver’s love life is starting to get interesting his parent’s marriage is starting to fall apart. Jill and Lloyd Tate, Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor respectively, find their relationship strained when Graham, Paddy Considine, an old flame of Jill’s moves in next door. Actually they had been growing distant over time and had not been intimate for several months, a fact that Oliver is aware of because of his monitoring and periodic searches of his parent’s bedroom. Lloyd is an ichthyologist employed at the local University performing a job that is “hard to explain without a degree level knowledge of fish”. Jill works for the local government in an environment where it is each employee’s responsibility to bring a cake to work on their birthday. Graham on the other hand is a new age guru, giving seminars on light and hawking self help videos which compared to Lloyd actually appears glamorous and exciting. Throw into this mix Jill’s prior relationship with Graham and Lloyd’s bouts of depression and Oliver has a reason to be concerned.
I started the movie laughing at Oliver then about a third of the way through the film I found myself rooting for him. When he says “she’ll never burn my leg hair again” I actually tear up a bit. As Oliver learns that reality doesn’t play out in the real world like it does in his head he becomes slightly more sympathetic and If he never becomes quite likable at least by the end of the movie you get the feeling that he is starting to realize that life isn’t a movie just about him.
This is Richard Ayoade’s first feature length film and it’s not hard to imagine that he had a big stack of ideas he was dying to try in a movie. The film is divided into three chapters with a prologue and an epilog, each with their own boldly lettered title cards. There is even an introductory note from Oliver before the film even starts. There is narration, illustration, dream and fantasy sequences but Ayoade manages to make it all work. The only flaw is that it’s a little flabby, it clocks in at ninety seven minutes but it feels more like two hours. The casting and acting is spot on. Not only am I going to be looking out for whatever Ayoade does next, but I’m going to be watching for whatever projects Roberts, Paige, Hawkins and Taylor are working on next as well. Even the score is fantastic. Alex Turner’s moody melodies perfectly mirror the gloomy Welsh landscape and the going on’s in Oliver’s mind.
The film is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio at 1080p. The film looks great, like you would expect from a new release movie. The image sometimes goes a little soft and dreamy, but this is not a defect of the transfer but an accurate reflection of the source material. The color palette is muted to emphasize the dreary Welsh weather, I don’t think there was a single sunny exterior scene, I’ll have to watch it again and see. But that just makes what color there is, like Jordana’s red coat, really pop. The blacks are nicely detailed and everything is suffused with just a touch of grain.
The audio is presented in English in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound mix. There are English and Spanish subtitles. The audio is perfectly adequate. The mix is good, dialog, score and foley are all clear without stepping on each other. I never noticed any distortion or digital artifacts in the sound.
Packaging and Bonus Features
The Blu Ray disc comes in the standard blue tinted Blu Ray case with artwork that is attractive if a little on the self congratulatory side. There is a short making of featurette and some deleted and extended scenes.
Overall (not an average) 8/10
I first saw Submarine back in April during the Nashville Film Festival. I loved it then and I love it now. Writing this review I’ve watched it several times and now that I finished the review I may just watch it all over again.
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (not an average) 8/10