Submarine is the directorial debut of Richard Ayoade, and critical praise has been given to both director and film alike. Ayoade may be best known for his work on British television’s Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd. I am a huge fan of British comedy in general, but it was my love of The IT Crowd, that piqued my interest in seeing this film. I love to see talents I enjoy taking on new challenges, and some of the better directors (in my opinion) are actors, so I was excited to see how Ayoade would handle the crossover.
Submarine tells the story of Oliver Tate, a teenager growing up in Wales in the 1980s. Oliver doesn’t quite fit in, and narrates us through the events of his coming of age. Shot with a variety of styles, some quick cuts, some freeze frame, some documentary style, some narration, and some imagination, Submarine never fails to keep the viewer’s attention.
The film is broken up into three acts, with Act One opening at school as Oliver tries to fit in by partaking in an act of bullying on another misfit. Unfortunately it goes a bit too, so Oliver in his regret, makes and sends her a pamphlet to deal with the occurrence. The act of bullying however has a benefit for Oliver, as he now catches the eye of Jordana, who blackmails him into a photographed kiss, which leads to Oliver getting in a fight, which leads to him becoming Jordana’s boyfriend.
In Act Two, we learn about Oliver’s parents, played by Sally Hawkins (mother Jill) and Noah Taylor (father Lloyd). There is tension in the Tate household, and it is filmed so well by Ayoade that you enjoy every second of it. Oliver has been spying on his parents, sensing the demise of their marriage. He charts their lovemaking by the position of their dimmer switch in the morning. The light has been at full strength for months now. To make matters worse, he discovers that their new neighbour “mystic” self-help speaker Graham T Purvis (played by Paddy Considine) is a past boyfriend of his mothers. His mother longs to be appreciated. His father has been plunged into depression, and inactivity. With his attention now split between his parents and his relationship with Jordana, Oliver’s teenage life gets even more complicated when Jordana informs him that her mother is dying, and he believes his mother is having an affair.
Act Three is full of the confrontations we expect with Jordana, Graham Purvis, and Jill and Lloyd. Submarine was a very touching film, filled with great warmth and wit, while taking a serious look at both teenage and adult relationships. It is hard to really make a comedic film that deals with growing up, divorce, brain tumours, and depression, but Submarine masterfully handles them all with a kind of gentleness, and with great humour. Many of Oliver’s voiceovers and his reactions to the situations thrust upon him made me laugh out loud. “My mum gave a handjob to a mystic” could soon become a classic line, quoted for years.
The casting in this film was excellent, and both the young leads (Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige) did a fantastic and believable job as their misfit characters. The established veteran actors were a joy as well. Noah Taylor really impressed me as his character seemed to move through several stages of depression, and Sally Hawkins was extremely funny as Oliver’s neurotic mom.
Also of note is the soundtrack/score, which was written and performed by Alex Turner, lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys; for whom Ayoade already directed three of their music videos. I’ve never really been into music before. Before the antenna from my car was stolen (on July 1st….this year….Canada Day long weekend….not that I’m bitter…those bastards) I still only listened to the oldies station on my AM radio. Ironically, in the late ’90s, I ran the music section of my store for a few years, without really ever listening to a single CD produced in that decade. My lack of musical knowledge is well known at work, but I’ve stunned a few recently as I’ve really started to notice the musical choices in several of the movies I’ve reviewed. After watching Jack Goes Boating, my staff were amazed I knew who the Fleet Foxes. I may have to surprise a few more on Monday with some Arctic Monkeys references…
I think that as directorial debuts go, Ayaode deserves top marks. The film was funny, thoughtful, well shot, well paced, and excellently scored. Given the quality of his first film, I can only assume and anticipate we will have more excellent movies from Ayoade in the future.
Posted on 11-10-02, in 4 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged 4 star, independent film, movie, My mum gave a handjob to a mystic, Noah Taylor, review, Richard Ayoade, Sally Hawkins. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.