Sunday, 8 May 2011
Obvious posterquote-style comparisons out of the way first:
"it's Napoleon Dynamite meets Rushmore in Wales!"
Here is the debut feature from Richard Ayoade, who you may know as Moss from "The IT Crowd", Dean Learner from "Garth Marenghi" and "Man to Man", Seboo from "The Mighty Boosh" (or the original Dixon Bainbridge, if you're really old-school), one of the idiots from "Nathan Barley" or the museum tour guide from "Bunny and the Bull". Or you might not have a clue who he is, in which case: never mind.
Ayoade adapted the screenplay from a book, but he obviously had a deep affinity for the skewed worldview and awkward protagonist. "Submarine" is the coming-of-age tale of Oliver Tate, an oddball outsider of the type frequently seen in indie films of this variety. The story deals with his tentative relationship with a spirited classmate and his attempts to rescue his parents' stagnating marriage.
Nothing too original there, and neither is there in the way it's presented. Oliver is a self-consciously studious and pseudo-intellectual individual, so the artistic affectation and new-wave stylings of the editing and photography fit perfectly, almost as if Oliver himself made the film with the power of his mind.
Some will accuse this picture of twee pretentiousness, but what allows it to rise above such charges are the uniformly excellent performances and the fact that it's very, very funny.
The two kids - Craig Roberts as Oliver and Yasmin Paige as Jordana, the object of his bumbling affections - are both fine little talents, with him a deadpan marvel and her a cheeky firecracker, and the adults hold their own as well. Sally Hawkins is brilliantly aloof, yet strangely warm as Oliver's mother; and Noah Taylor is hilarious as his emasculated, emotionally neutered dad. And then Paddy Considine shows up dressed as a ninja with a massive mullet.
It takes an actor of unfathomable (I done an unintentional submarine pun!) talent to not be upstaged by such ridiculous hair (just ask Nic Cage), but Paddy manages to create an all-too-plausible creepy self-help guru with designs on Oliver's Ma.
The script is tight and sharp, with each character drawn in perfect oddball detail, and the plot manages to surprise and at least feel unpredictable, even as it hits many familiar beats.
I feel like I should write more, as I did enjoy this film, but all that remains to be said is: if you like your coming-of-age movies a little off-beat, beautifully shot, damn funny and with a big, awkward heart, check "Submarine" out. It shows much promise from its director and young stars.