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.