Richard Ayoade's Submarine is an auspicious, controlled and altogether droll debut film that resembles Wes Anderson's Rushmore without being derived from it. Ayoade is a well-known comedian in England, but his directing resume is mostly populated by music videos for bands like the Arctic Monkeys and Super Furry Animals. Still, he proves that an MTV pedigree does not necessarily equate with cinematic excess-though Submarine is beautifully and whimsically visualized, it also shows a strong sense of environment and always puts the camera in the service of the characters. A richly realized Welsh milieu will make this movie a tough sell for the Weinstein Co., especially since Ayoade has so beautifully achieved the kind of coming of age story that may not speak to the older viewers who people the arthouse's these days. But the Weinsteins have always been smart enough to use their clout in America to establish relationships with emerging talent, and if Submarine is any indication, count any P and A costs on this modestly commercial venture as a wise long term investment in a bright new filmmaker.
Adapted from the novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine tracks an eventful season in the life of moon-faced Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a shy young man with a seething inner life who is on the brink of first love. The object of his affections is Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige), a chunky and worldlier girl with decidedly pyromaniac tendencies. The major fire she ignites though is the one inside Oliver's yearning young heart, but complications emerge as it becomes clear that Oliver's parents are going through the early stages of a severe marital crisis. Plot and subplot augment and compliment each other, with Submarine offering a layered but ultimately affirmative look at the difficult but necessary nature of love in all its manifestations.
Locked inside Oliver's head both cinematically and via voiceover, Ayoade shows a strong and perceptive affinity for the intricacies of adolescence. Oliver is positively rampant with contradictory impulses, seeking to simultaneously preserve his childhood by saving his parents marriage and to break out of the box of youth into the bright sunlight of a more liberated self. His flights of fancy, rendered with a witty surrealism, include standard adolescent empowerment fantasies and even the occasional wry cinematic in-joke, as when Oliver imagines his mother's former acting aspirations by seeing her in a famous shot from Ingmar Bergman's Persona. The acting is stellar, with fine supporting turns from Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor as Oliver's parents, and a broad but hilarious tour de farce by Paddy Considine as Graham, the mystic/swinger who may break Oliver's family apart.
Submarine bucks the current trend for depicting teenage life as an endless spree of Jersey Shore style hedonism, instead reminding us of how small, human moments are what form us and linger in our memory.
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Cast: Craig Roberts, Paddy Considine, Sally Hawkins, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor
Director/Screenwriter: Richard Ayoade
Producer: Andy Stebbing, Mark Herbert, Mary Burke
Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Running time: 94 min
Relese date: June 3 ltd.