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Submarine

Submarine

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

RICHARD Ayoade has quietly been going about making a big name for himself for some time now.

A popular member of quirky comedy ensemble The IT Crowd, he’s also co-written and co-directed Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and directed music videos for the likes of Arctic Monkeys.

Now, he’s behind the camera again for smart coming-of-age comedy Submarine, adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel of the same name and a genuine little pleasure.

Set in Wales, the film follows the fortunes of nerdy schoolboy Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) as he embarks on his first relationship with glib but hip teenager Jordana (Yasmin Paige) and frets over the slow breakdown of his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) marriage.

Admittedly, there’s nothing new in the themes that Ayoade explores but he does it in a style more befitting Wes Anderson than American Pie and endears himself all the more.

Submarine is smart, funny, occasionally poignant and cleverly told. It ticks all the right boxes within the genre (losing virginity, gaining a voice, beating the bullies) but somehow adopts a fresh approach to doing so.

And in central duo Roberts and Paige, the film has a genuinely heart-warming couple.

Roberts, in particular, delivers his lines with a nerdy cool that is utterly charming, while dropping some looks to die for which perfectly accompany his droll voice-over. Such is the strength of Roberts’ performance, in fact, that Oliver remains a likeable presence to be around even when behaving like a jerk.

Paige, too, is a delight… a feisty object of affection whose early confidence slowly gives rise to insecurity and even vulnerability. Together, they could become one of the year’s coolest couples.

There’s strong support, too, from the ever-reliable Hawkins and Taylor, as Oliver’s borderline depressed father, as well as from Paddy Considine, as one of Hawkins’ mum’s exes, while a soundtrack from Alex Turner also works a treat in lending the film a distinct identity.

It’s Ayoade, though, who will ultimately draw the biggest praise given the cool, kooky style with which he directs. For while his film isn’t perfect and sags a little during the middle section, when its focus drifts more towards Oliver’s parents, there are so many nice touches that it’s easy to overlook the flaws.

The director’s shooting style is frequently eye-catching and occasionally surreal (begging those Anderson comparisons) and he is able to invest his trademark humour with some lovely cinematic flourishes.

A first kissing scene between Oliver and Jordana is brilliantly executed, as is a reunion sequence on a beach, or the obligatory montage sequences. They’re all rites-of-passage moments, yet delivered in a style that makes them seem fresh.

As such, you can’t help but be charmed – and eventually smitten – by the film as a whole. It’s an irresistible proposition that shouldn’t be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 97mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 1, 2011