Submarine review

Submarine was my most anticipated film of the year.  I’m a massive fan of writer/director/comedian Richard Ayoade (Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace; The IT Crowd; The Mighty Boosh) whose previous directorial outings included a bunch of memorable music videos which ranged from the bizarre to the sublime.  Ayoade’s feature film debut most closely resembles the ambition and kitchy coolness of that latter video in a manner that will surely polarize discerning filmgoers.

15-year-old virgin Oliver Tate lives in a small, picturesque town in Wales that is populated by quirky eccentrics.  Oliver is the type of wise-beyond-his-years character that reads the encyclopedia for fun, has a “word of the day”, and thinks it’s helpful to give a bullied young girl a self-penned pamphlet on how to break the cycle of abuse.  He’s a bit of a dick, really.  His parents include a neurotic mother (Sally Hawkins) and a depressive marine biologist father (Noah Taylor).  Oliver falls for a girl, puts up with his parents, and spies on his mullet-sporting psychic ninja neighbor (Paddy Considine).  He does all of this with a sense of wonder that makes even his most subtle entries into adulthood feel like adventures both devastating and grand.

Ayoade piles on the quirk through Super 8 footage, oblique narration, and an overwhelming amount of cuts and camera movement.  Comparisons to Rushmore or the style of Wes Anderson in general are predictable and justified, thus the film owes a large debt to the French New Wave.  Submarine will seem derivatively pointless to some and gorgeously charming to others.  I know better than to like this movie, but I just can’t help it.

Submarine opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.

Official site.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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