BFI London Film Festival Review: Submarine

Directed by Richard Ayoade
Starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Paddy Considine & Sally Hawkins

by Jack Gregson
Score: 4/4

There is truly something wonderful about this movie. Oliver Tate (Roberts) is a neurotic Welsh teenager in the 80’s. It’s a difficult time for young Mr. Tate, he’s fallen in love with the mysterious Jordana (Paige), his parents are having marital troubles and his mother (Hawkins) is looking to her ex-boyfriend (Considine) for comfort, now Oliver feels that he needs to take action. The plot is a typical coming of age story but it is the way the story has been told and the style that the director has brought to the picture that make it so stunning. It’s a lovely comedy that nails the agony of being a child and wanting the world to work around our needs.


The film really belongs to director Richard Ayoade, who has definitely shown some flare as director on TV shows such as Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and with the music videos he has done for The Arctic Monkeys but the question I had when going into this film was “would Ayoade be able to transition to the big screen?” The answer is a resounding yes! If you are fan of Ayoade’s style of comedy (and if you are not I highly recommend you check out the first series of The IT Crowd now) you will be happy to see that it is so clearly displayed on the screen and none of it is lost in the translation. For those who don’t know, Ayoade is a man known for a more awkward style of humour (and I don’t mean Ricky Gervais awkward). Last year, this type of humour tried to make a leap to the big screen through the film Bunny and the Bull, which tried to hard to create a world of extremes to balance its humour with but sadly it failed for me, here in Submarine the setting is very realistic and that completely works to its advantage as it is a wonderful juxtaposition to the comedy.

It’s nice to see a film running with an awkward style of humour, it never tries to appeal to a mass audience by throwing in some jokes for everyone; it sticks to its guns. The film is supposed to be directed by the character of Oliver and that is represented in a really beautiful way, the shots are mainly naturally lit, Oliver is always displayed as a tragic hero despite being a bit of fool; it’s a really great way to examine a character. It’s quite interesting to see how Ayoade has shot Wales, a country that has been the butt of many jokes yet here it looks quite beautiful. It’s odd as he has chosen quite a trashy landscape filming at areas that look like landfills and beaches on cloudy days, yet Ayoade seems to have an eye for making the mundane become spectacular which completely compliments the idea that we are looking through the rose tinted eyes of a youngster.

In the second role I’ve seen her in at this years festival, Sally Hawkins once again delivers another strong and powerful performance in a small role, she portrays all our mothers during the times we’ve been worried about them and she does it wonderfully, I’d never have never believed she could pull off a mother role until I saw this movie. Newcomers Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige turn in great performances, spouting off their dialogue as if they were adults who had been classically trained, in fact Craig Roberts might have given my favourite performance of the year, he reminds of Woody Allen, if Woody Allen was a Welsh teenager, every line of dialogue is delivered in a style of dry wit that is so pitch perfect that after a while you’re not sure if he’s a comic genius or just has some bizarre vocal chords; whatever it was, I found it wonderful. Paddy Considine is an actor who I have come to respect as the next great British talent, someone who handles very serious roles which is why I was so delighted to see him as a huge comic relief in this film, he plays a life guru who you just want to punch in the face, and I can tell you this, I never thought I’d want to punch Mr. Considine.

The film is split into 3 act plus an epilogue and prologue which make the film feel far longer than 97 mins and sadly some of the inspired directorial ideas to make the film look a little more home made come off as looking like sloppy visuals but there are so many positives in this movie that you completely forget about the negatives. The performances are perfect, the story is strong and it has given us a new talented director. I really loved this film and I will be very surprised if it does not pop up on my top 10 list at the end of the year. It’s awkward, it’s funny, it’s being a teenager in love, and we’ve all been through it, just not quite like this. Go see it!

E-mail Jack

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Dave Minkus

Dave is located in Denver, CO and can also be found occasionally sullying various podcasts who don't know better than to invite him on.

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