I've always loved Richard Ayoade, since he first blessed my screen as Dean Learner in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Then I found out he was directing a movie, and I was like "Whaaaat?" Turns out now I love him even more.
Submarine follows the life of teenager Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts). He has a plan for his life, and although he manages to get himself a girlfriend in the form of Jordana (Yasmin Paige), his parents' relationship isn't going as well as he thought, as evidenced by regular room searches and the position of their dimmer switch. He has a separate mix tape for each stage and mood of his life, and he thinks he knows exactly what he's doing.
Unfortunately, he's socially inept and his mother thinks he's crazy. But that doesn't stop him embarking on a journey to lose his virginity and stop his mother from having an affair with the new next door neighbour. Oliver believes everything is in his control, and has several plans laid out to make sure everything happens correctly, but his constant spying and meddling only serves to make things worse.
Roberts does an excellent job of portraying Oliver. He simply radiates awkwardness, but manages to speak in the overconfident way that his character feels about himself. As his life plans begin to deteriorate, his reactions get more and more absurd, playing out scenarios that will surely fix everything like in the movies, or taking on the persona of his formerly depressed dad, dressing gown, hot lemon and all. While everyone in the cast is wonderful, it is Roberts who really steals the show.
Submarine is not a generic teenage love story. It is very abstract at times, with scenes devolving into super 8 form and strange dream sequences. Perhaps the strangest part is not being able to pin down when the movie is set. Sometimes it could easily be the 80s, others it seems more like the 90s, but overall it seems like there is no real time setting, it just harks back to a simpler time when there were no mobile phones or internet, and proper love letters were written. This feeling of confusion really adds to the tone of the movie, detaching the viewer from the events going on, perhaps in the same way that Oliver Tate is detached, just observing, making plans and following them.
Submarine is wonderfully filmed. It seems that Ayoade never wants to waste a shot, and uses angles and zooms to the best of his ability. The result is a very artistic looking picture, and accompanied by its haunting music and soundtrack by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, it makes for a very unique movie. Ayoade did an excellent job with the script too. I've never read the book Submarine was adapted from, but the dialogue is awesome, and made me laugh out loud in places due to the wonderful delivery by the actors.
Submarine is not your average movie. It is a highly stylised and artistic film about the pains of teenage life, seen through the eyes of a strange but wonderful boy. It is a great achievement for a debut movie, and I really look forward to anything Richard Ayoade offers in the future.
My rating: 5/5