We know him and love him as the brilliant, bumbling Maurice Moss from Channel 4’s comedy sitcom The IT Crowd. But Submarine, which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival last month, shows the first-time feature film director Richard Ayoade (he has previously directed music videos for the Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and Vampire Weekend) in a somewhat different, more sensitive light. The film is suitably quirky and at times rib-achingly funny, but at its heart lies a poignant tale of love, loss and the all too familiar struggles of youth.
Based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne and set in a rural town in Wales, Submarine centres around awkward, eccentric, briefcase-wielding schoolboy Oliver Tate (played impressively by newcomer Craig Roberts) mocked by his peers and smothered by his family. He longs from afar for his enigmatic, chain-smoking classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige) and yearns for his desperately rigid and old-fashioned parents (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins, in excellent comedic form) to rekindle the romance they once had. But the arrival of big-haired, lycra-clad, spiritual motivational speaker/basket case Graham, played to perfection by a hilarious Paddy Considine, causes Oliver’s mother’s affections to stray, and he must take immediate action to stop his family from completely falling apart.
The story is simple – there are no big shocks or flashy twists and turns to be seen here. Submarine is instead a breathtakingly original take on the commonly-told ‘coming of age’ story – a delightful little indie gem, filled with funny, touching, genuine performances from all the cast. Craig Roberts is both side-splitting and deeply affecting in his first starring role. The film looks gorgeous, and Alex Turner’s low-key, folky soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the sleepy little Welsh streets and cold, deserted beaches captured beautifully on camera.
This intimate portrayal of a young boy’s life is handled with great care and skill, and despite being based on a book, it feels like a very personal movie. It’s without a doubt an outstanding first crack at directing and an exciting indication of even greater things to come from Ayoade (and Roberts) in the future. Expected to be released nationwide early next year, this is definitely a film to look out for.