Submarine review

Sometimes when you watch a film, you know very early on what kind of a film you're watching. For example, when I first watched The Social Network, in the scene when Zuckerberg is running back to campus, I got goosebumps and I knew I was watching a film that was going to challenge me, make me pay attention, make me engage.

Within two minutes of Submarine I knew I was watching a film that's incredibly proud of its indie sensibilities. It would sit happily in any festival playing to audiences who want to watch non-mainstream films. That's not a bad thing, in fact I applaud it. I just couldn't shake the feeling all the way through that I was watching 'a festival film'.

The story, based on Joe Dunthorne's novel, follows teenager Oliver Tate, who's trying to find his way in life while also keeping a close eye on his parents' crumbling marriage. Oliver falls for the feisty Jordana who helps to draw him out of himself and they embark on a tentative love affair. Just as Oliver's love life starts to pick-up, his parents' starts to fall apart with the arrival of his mother's first love who moves in across the road. Oliver checks on his parents' sex life by monitoring how dim their bedroom light is in the morning (the darker the room, the more likely they've been having fun).

This is a film of very strong debuts, from director Richard Ayoade (Moss from the IT Crowd) and Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige as Oliver and Jordana. Roberts is particularly strong, required to be in pretty much every scene, while I enjoyed Paige's turn from swaggering teenager to a girl in desparate need of suppport. Also of note are the adults, Sally Hawkins as Oliver's Mum is, as always, excellent, and Noah Taylor is equally good as Dad (although quite where he was pitching his accent I'm not sure). Paddy Considine is fantastic as Graham, the aforementioned first love, who spends his time spouting new age guff with the straightest face you'll see on film this year. Oh, and watch out for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from the film's executive producer.

It's a very strong debut from Ayoade, who I thoroughly expect to have a big career in film from now on. I just felt at times the film's trying so hard to be quirky that it almost does itself a disservice. In a way, it feels almost like one of those films that critics love for its originality and quirkiness but audiences find a little too 'indie' for it to make the crossover.

Submarine at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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