DVD Review: Submarine [M]

Director: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Yasmin Paige
Running Time : 97 minutes
DVD Release Date: TBA

‘Most people think of themselves as individuals, that there is no one else on the planet like them.’

Oliver Tate (Roberts) is a very ordinary 15 year old boy living in a very ordinary Welsh town. He lives with his depressed father (Taylor) and his repressed mother (Hawkins). He falls for the darkly mysterious Jordana (Paige) and embarks on an awkward relationship with her with a few unexpected twists and turns. He spies on his parents, routinely searching their bedroom for indicators of how healthy their relationship is and when an old boyfriend of his mother’s returns, his obsession increases.

This movie has lots of things I love about movies. It’s an indie with a first time director…..so no one is demanding or expecting anything. It looks and feels quirky…nobody does quirky quite like the Brits. It has an unknown as it’s lead actor…again, no expectations. It has an incredible support cast, most notably the ever versatile and unafraid Australian Taylor (and you all know how I love me some Aussie actor!) and the divinely nuanced Hawkins.


The movie is set in the mid 1980’s and looked and felt every inch that decade. The leftover 70’s kitsch décor, the high necked/long length conservative clothes the ‘nice’ ladies wore, the swapping of ‘mix tapes’ (cassette tapes, thank you very much) and the lack of gadgets and technology. Our protagonist uses a typewriter…..an actual typewriter. And it was all so fabulously effective.

Submarine is a coming of age teen angst movie of epic proportions. Oliver is quiet, subdued, almost wooden and disengaged. One of the opening scenes is his fantasy of how everyone would react to his death. It is complete with wailing girls, constant television coverage and nationwide candle light vigils. It was a fantastic start.

His girlfriend, Jordana, who strangely sports a large red coat throughout the movie, is a woman ahead of or perhaps a result of her time. A second generation feminist, she has very firm, inflexible ideas about how her relationship will work. She is unflinchingly demanding and does stoop to taunting the awkward Oliver if it suits her. And he adores her.

All of this should work and yet, for me at least, it does not. There are some truly touching moments, some funny moments, some very poignant moments but still……it does not work.

The acting is solid and the characters are nuanced perfectly just short of parody. The dialogue is quick and clever. Old school clever, not the 45 year old in a 16 year old’s body ‘clever’ like we are annoyingly subjected to these days. It is dark and dismal but not depressingly so. And yet……I just could not get into it.

It is not a bad movie, not at all, it was simply not a movie I particularly enjoyed. Once I wrote the majority of this review, I read other reviews and it was raved about when released into cinemas late last year. It was nominated for lots and lots of Indie awards too. Well….. whatever.

I suppose you should bear in mind, I still cannot get through more than 30 minutes of Forrest Gump, one of the most lauded and beloved of quirky movies, without wanting to smash that box of chocolates over his head.

So you can either take my word for it and pass on by when you see this at your local video store or watch it if only because you loved Forrest Gump and what do I know anyway.

I guess I am just not as quirkified as I thought I was……

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