I could kiss Richard Ayoade, and very nearly did when I ran into him between screenings at Sundance. Not only is he devilishly handsome, but he’s proven himself as a writer and director with his new film.  Submarine is one of those films you find yourself daydreaming about days after. It’s not the story itself that really sticks with you, it’s the tone. Flippant, smart, sarcastic, and charming as hell, Submarine raises the bar for ironic coming of age comedies. If you liked Rushmore, you’ll love this!

The Players:

  • Director: Richard Ayoade
  • Writers: Richard Ayoade (screenplay), Joe Dunthorne (novel)
  • Stars: Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor, Craig Roberts, and Yasmin Paige

The Official Sundance Synopsis:

Meet Oliver Tate, a precocious 15-year-old whose worldview is exceedingly clever and largely delusional (he imagines the outpouring of grief that would spread through Wales if he died). Oliver carries a briefcase, doesn’t agree with everything Nietzsche said but concedes that he had some interesting points, peruses the dictionary for new words (fla•gi•tious, adj, wickedly shameful), and suspects his mother of having an affair with their New Age neighbor. But foremost on Oliver’s mind is finding a girlfriend. Enter Jordana Bevan.

Adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s wry novel and bolstered by aesthetic wit, fabulous performances, and a clever score by Andrew Hewitt (with songs by Alex Turner), Submarine evokes the spontaneity and breezy cinematic cool of the French New Wave. Ayoade sidesteps coming-of-age clichés to explore a kid who’s too self-absorbed to realize that to know somebody, you first have to remove yourself from the center of the universe.

The Good:

This film is exactly my kind of comedy. It’s ironic, a little pretentious and a little dry, but really cutting and really quick. It hooks you from the beginning and the main character, Oliver, manages to be at once pitiable and despicably real. The brutality and abject humiliation of teenage life is prolific, and though hilariously funny to watch, very real and relate-able.

The cast is fantastic. Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige have amazing screen presence and good romantic chemistry, even playing awkward teenage lovers. Sally Hawkins does prim, uptight, and sexually repressed without breaking a sweat. Paddy Considine nailed the part of the weird, spiritual hippy neighbor–not a part I would have ever associated with him, but I’m so glad he did it! Noah Taylor couldn’t have been better as the academic, anti-social husband. I must also give some points of praise to style and wardrobe for putting together a cool and consistent sartorial look for the whole film.

The Bad:

There were two things that irked me a little about the film. One was that the pace slowed a bit toward the ending, and the ending itself was not wholey satisfying for me. After being put through the ringer of teenage angst, anger, depression, and anome, I was ready for a proper cathartic moment; a break through that I felt was never fully realized. Second, Richard Ayoade took some risks with some of his shots and I estimate that about half of the riskier shots were really necessary (but I did love the still shot of the girl falling into the pond!).

Overall:

If you’re looking for spry wit in a coming of age comedy that will have you laughing for days, you’ve found it. This is intelligent and, though it has moments of emo-style nostalgic camera work, is an excellent addition to the ranks of indie coming of age films.

Rating: 7.5/10