It sucks to be Oliver Tate. The little British dude’s life is falling apart. Sure, he has a new girlfriend, but she isn’t the easiest to deal with. His prospects of losing his virginity are looking up, however. But his parents are on the verge of divorce, his dad even less confrontational than he is while his mom lusts after the self help guru who lives next door. His classmates think he’s gay. He pushed an unpopular girl in a pond, though.
Oliver Tate’s life is depicted in Submarine, the feature film debut of writer/director Richard Ayoade. Beautifully shot and elegantly written, the movie is quirky, smart, edgy, fun and sad all at once, not too far exaggerated from the average childhood, or what I imagine to be the average British childhood as depicted in British drama-comedies such as Submarine.
Craig Roberts takes full advantage of his first leading role, giving the audiences a likable but hardly perfect protagonist swayed by temptations in life – namely blossoming young love – and the subtle but influential pressures placed on teenagers by parents and their peers. His delivery is quirky and fresh. The supporting cast – Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor and Paddy Considine – are also excellent in their respective roles.
Submarine fires on all cylinders until it doesn’t, which is sometime in the middle of the second act. For whatever reason, as things start digressing the way things digress in life, or at least in fictional movie life, the movie loses a bit of its flare, the fun and pacing bogged down by bits of drama that pile on piece by piece. It’s well written throughout, but it loses its focus for a while.
I may have also started reading TheChive.com for a minute or two in there, always a good way to lose focus regardless of production quality.
Thankfully, Submarine regains its footing in the third act and carries the story home. It never again attains the magic displayed in the film’s marvelous first act, but it provides a satisfying conclusion. I don’t necessarily care to watch Submarine again – it isn’t so funny or so entertaining to warrant repeat viewings – but there’s something about the movie that just works. The spitfire dialogue alone makes Submarine worth it.
People looking for something a bit different – but still widely acceptable – should definitely dive into Submarine.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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