Submarine: movie review

‘Submarine’ delves below the surface in an edgy, dry look at coming-of-age.

  • close
    Craig Roberts plays 15-year-old Oliver Tate in first-time director Richard Ayoade’s dramedy ‘Submarine,’ set in 1980s Britain.
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Coming-of-age movies involving precocious, troublesome boys are a genre unto themselves, ranging from "Rushmore" to Truffaut's "The 400 Blows." "Submarine," a new British comedy, draws on both of those films, and many more, but retains, for better and for worse, its own distinctive tone of glum jokiness.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is the 15-year-old wiseguy who lives in the Welsh coastal city of Swansea and rarely removes his duffle coat or smirky expression. He is also the film's narrator and fabulist, imagining such situations as his own demise, complete with sobbing classmates and a candlelit vigil. In truth, Oliver is not much liked. He doesn't much care. He has a larger mission: to "save" his parents' marriage, and to lose his virginity – specifically to his stony-faced classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige).

Set back in time to the 1980s, "Submarine" is based on the acclaimed 2008 novel by Joe Dunthorne and directed by Richard Ayoade, a music-video maven and TV comedian ("The IT Crowd"). It's best when it burrows inside Oliver's antic ploys, which almost never turn out the way he expects them to. (We, of course, know better.) It's not so good when Ayoade attempts, as he often does, to cajole us into Oliver's way of seeing by piling on the freeze frames and slo-mo shots. His shopworn bag of cinematic tricks only serves to remind us of how familiar, despite the change of scenery, much of this material is.

It's also a mistake, I think, to have Oliver and Jordana be so emotionally flat. No doubt Ayoade was reaching for a hipper-than-thou vibe here, but their inexpressiveness is more annoying than cool. The film only truly comes to life when Paddy Considine's Graham, a New Age guru who has the hots for Oliver's mother (Sally Hawkins), is prancing about.

Ayoade is at his most inventive, and least derivative, in a goofy mode, but "Submarine," for the most part, is not in his best range. There's a self-satisfied complacency about the movie, a forced knowingness. Grade: B- (Rated R for language and some sexual content.)

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK