A coming of age indie comedy seems beyond prevalent these days. How does one go about producing a quirky, left-of-field, distinctively voiced, piece of cinema? Somehow, many can attest to achieving this. Maybe I’m too easily impressed, but I do freely admit to enjoy this genre with particular zest. Unsurprisingly, Richard Ayoade’s feature film debut Submarine can easily be added to this list.
Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is, to say the least, a precious fifteen year old. Existentialist, perceptive and undeniably sharp, his constant narration details both family and romantic preconceptions about those around him. His parents Jill (Sally Hawkins) and Lloyd (Noah Taylor) are in a romantic rut, as evidenced by the untouched bedroom dimmer switch. At school, Jordana (Yasmin Paige) occupies Oliver’s time as well as his blossoming attempts at being the perfect lover.
Conflict surrounds his family life when Graham (Paddy Considine), a former flame of Jill, moves in across the road. Meanwhile, at school, Oliver attempts to firstly court the devilish Jordana, and then tame her into a well of shared interests, starting with literature.
Oliver is not the typical teenager. But of course, most lead characters in coming-of-age indie flicks usually are (I’m thinking Juno, Welcome to the Dollhouse, etc.) Oliver is obscenely articulate, quick thinking and painfully hysterical. He is young, likeable, and the likely hero one would expect in a coming-of-age indie film. Relative newcomer Roberts makes a noticeable impression, and impressively so as the person we spend the most time with on screen. He is able to convey a comical moment in just a quick glance with his demanding eyes. This is one to watch!
Hawkins and Taylor are the familiarly odd parents. Hawkins is simple, restrained and amiable. Taylor conveys a quiet, solemn man who is nonetheless pleasant. Paige is more angst ridden than Robert’s Oliver. Her hardness provides a reason for Oliver to gain her attention and then charm her. Paige and Roberts have onscreen chemistry that works well, without making either seem older than their fifteen years. Considine also gets a chance to impress as the self-help guru with one amazing mullet.
Thank you 1980s hairstyles! Ben Stiller also provides a cameo as an American soap opera star, as well as donning an executive producer hat.
Writing and directing collaborations with cult British television series’ (The Mighty Boosh and The I.T. Crowd), as well as directing music videos (for Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys) saw Ayoade’s great potential. Now, for a feature film debut, Ayoade impresses with a solid and tight film, with a fairly obvious influence from Wes Anderson, but adding a bit more oomph!
The script is rapid fire funny, but flails slightly towards the end, getting a little lost. The film is marked into three specific acts with a prologue and an epilogue. This split seems rather purposeless, rather than aiding the story. The three act structure of a film is usually clear to most film goers, regardless of whether they notice it or not; exposition, conflict, resolution.
Originally the brainchild of Joe Dunthorne, who was approximately the same age as Oliver at the same approximate time,has found a friend in Ayoade and so too, will audiences.
Submarine played at the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival and is on current release through Madman Distribution.