For a man who is more familiar with directing television shows and music videos, the feature-length directorial debut, Submarine, of Richard Ayoade is a promising stepping stone into a new realm of creativity. Produced by Hollywood heavy-weight Ben Stiller, the film tells the story of young Oliver Tate, played by Craig Roberts, and the small events that make-up his coming of age story.
The film is endearing, unconventional in its narrative style, and self-reflexive at times in the way that Oliver comments on how he wishes every move of his adolescent life should be filmed because it is so interesting. In reality, his life is no different from any other youth struggling to fit in at school and doing whatever it takes to get the girl or boy they fancy. One of my favourite moments is when Oliver is handing an apology letter to a lady at school to give to the overweight girl he accidentally on purpose pushed into mucky pond to impress his current interest, Jordana. When he gives her the letter he states something along the lines of, “at this moment I would want a swinging crane shot but I cannot afford it so I will settle for the zoom-out,” and when he says this the camera zooms out. The self-reflexivity of the film is an interesting way that Ayoade creates a connection between the audience and characters.
Now, I have read a number of reviews on this film and I must inquire as to why none that I have read took a moment to comment on the fact that Jordana wears a red coat throughout the entire film, meanwhile black is the omnipresent shade encountered at school, and dull faded colours are worn by the adults in the film. I think this is meant to signify the depressing and rocky state of Oliver Tate’s parents’ marriage and their lack-luster love life, symbolizing how passion fades with time. Meanwhile, Jordana is the only colourful figure in the film even though her emotions and intentions with Oliver are indecipherable.
Overall, the film has its quirky and pleasant moments, but maybe I missed something while watching it because I do not know if it is deserving of all the incredible praise other reviews have given it. Yes, it is a charming film, but I felt rather bored at some points and questioned where it was heading. One thing I did love though was the music. Arctic Monkey’s front man, Alex Turner contributed six songs to the film and they just fused seamlessly with the narrative, creating a bit of excitement and adding some emotion that I felt was not performed by the actors. I guess I am not used to every character being completely depressed and unhappy with their lives, which is why I am thankful for the music because it instigated an ounce of contentment. Also, I felt this film did a strong job in conveying the awkwardness of youth and the development of love. When Jordana and Oliver decide to sleep together, the audience does not get to witness this personal moment in action, which is probably a good thing because it would have been just as uncomfortable to witness as it was uneasy to watch Oliver attempt to woo her. There is no grace when it comes to ones first time and Ayoade was successful in portraying this universally experienced moment. I was definitely hiding behind my hands for a lot of these encounters.