Review – Submarine

There is something raw and refreshing about a director’s debut feature film. For the first time, a filmmaker gets to put on screen all the ideas they’ve had floating around in their brain since they were first inspired to become a director. The filmmaking is often fearless and, due to the lack of pressure from the studio system, it often produces pure originality and creativity. Past examples include Sam Raimi’s ‘The Evil Dead’, Rob Reiner’s ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, George Miller’s ‘Mad Max’ and John Lasseter’s ‘Toy Story’. Even ‘Citizen Kane’, a film many consider to be the greatest ever made, was a first for Orson Welles. Now, bursting onto the scene with the weird and wonderful ‘Submarine’, you can add British writer and director Richard Ayoade to the list.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is an intelligent, yet socially awkward teenager living in a small seaside village. At heart, he is a romantic and experiences his first love when he falls for classmate Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige). At the same time, he is trying to keep his parents’ marriage together after his mother and an ex-lover develop a relationship.

Ayoade is best known for his work as an actor and director on the sitcom ‘The IT Crowd’ and the genius that is ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’, but his transition into film is seamless. Ayoade’s direction is superb and he wastes no time establishing his unique visual style. ‘Submarine’ has a quirky home movie feel that isn’t ashamed of its low budget origins, but rather revels in them, allowing Ayoade to flex his filmmaking muscles. The story is told mostly from Oliver’s perspective, and Ayoade presents the world through his eyes. Capturing Oliver’s sense of wonder and curiosity, it’s like a projector is beaming directly out from the character’s brain.

The script is razor sharp and not a piece of dialogue is wasted, which is another reason to love Ayoade, who handled screenwriting duties as well. The humour has a distinct British flavour, and repeat viewings will ensure people will be quoting this film for the next decade.

The performances are excellent and Roberts should be at the top of every casting list now. He delivers his lines in rapid fire bursts, while giving his character the right amount of overconfidence and sweet innocence. Paige is perfect, becoming the embodiment of a high school crush. No doubt people will have flashbacks to the ‘Jordana’ in their own life. Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins are also outstanding as Oliver’s conservative parents, and Paddy Considine is great at playing a creepy self-help psychic.

The music complements ‘Submarine’ beautifully, with a bunch of original songs provided by Alex Turner from The Artic Monkeys and a touching score by Andrew Hewitt. The soundtrack should be included in any film lover’s collection.

While ‘Submarine’ starts strong, it does lose direction in the second half. It gets complicated, as several storylines wrap up with mixed results. The ending is flat and may be unsatisfying for some, especially after such a strong start.

It’s refreshing to see ‘Submarine’ get back to basics and yield big results against the tide of CGI schlock-busters. Ayoade is a major talent, and full credit to actor Ben Stiller and his producing team for having the faith to back the film.


‘Submarine’ is release in Australia on 8 September 2011.


The Popcorn Junkie