Submarine is the much-discussed, uber cool alternative movie of 2011. Every year has one. Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Scott Pilgrim vs the World… the list is endless. This time, it’s a British film that’s joining the collection. Submarine is directed by first-timer Richard Ayoade (famous for sitcoms on TV such as The IT Crowd), and adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel of the same name.
It’s a curious film made up of strange little moments and sketches, told from the point of view of a 15-year-old Swansea boy named Oliver (Craig Roberts). His sexual awakening forms the basis of the movie, and we see him strike up a relationship with an unlikable girl with a strange haircut and a red coat. There’s also a subplot involving his parents’ (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) awkward relationship, and the possibility of them divorcing.
Although I’m sure its kookiness earned it extra fans, the weird and deliberately bizarre style Ayoade uses to convey what’s going on in the protagonist’s head gets in the way of any real emotion or depth to the picture. There are some lovely moments (particularly the short scene where Oliver imagines his mother packing to leave the family for good, with her husband good-naturedly helping her put belongings into a suitcase), but these are lost amongst the film’s incessant efforts to be stylistically different. One of the nicest things about it is its affectionate — and at times unsettling — portrayal of 1980s school life, when the joys of childhood involved spending time outside rather than in one’s bedroom on Facebook.
Submarine isn’t a great film, but it isn’t a particularly bad one either. Overall, it feels like a warm-up for whatever great things Ayoade may turn out in the future, once he’s calmed down a bit.
Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade, is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Optimum Home Entertainment, certificate 15.