Melbourne International Film Festival – Submarine review

Submarine – Starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige and Sally Hawkins. Directed by Richard Ayoade. Rated M. By Jess Lomas.

Submarine plays the Melbourne International Film Festival on Thursday 28 July.

The feature directorial debut for actor Richard Ayoade is an impressive though familiar exploration into the coming of age for one awkward teenager. Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine follows 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) as he experiences his first love with Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige). His goal, at first, is to lose his virginity before his next birthday but he soon finds himself caring more for this girl who sets all of the boundaries in the relationship.

Alongside Oliver’s sexual awakening is the disintegration of his parents’ (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) marriage, fuelled by the return of one of his mother’s ex-flames, mystic Graham Purvis (Paddy Considine). As Oliver sets about saving his parents’ marriage he sacrifices his own relationship, and in doing so begins to grow.

This is a faithful adaptation of Dunthorne’s novel, toned down somewhat for the audience by the exclusion of a sub-theme exploring Oliver’s sexual experimentation with a  minor that definitely would not have translated well to the screen. Overall the performances from the entire cast take Dunthorne’s extremely unlikeable characters and make them personable and funny.  Taylor and Hawkins as Oliver’s parents are the particular highlight, as is Considine’s Graham; though perhaps his character sways into stereotype he is nonetheless thoroughly entertaining to watch.

Visually, the film is a hipster’s paradise, with scenes of Oliver and Jordana racing through industrial sites or an empty carnival setting off firecrackers (add some manufactured indie pop music and you’d have yourself a music video). Submarine is constantly enjoyable, and doesn’t slip into a lull at any point. Comparisons to Wes Anderson’s work are inevitable though it seems to be more the characters and story rather than aesthetic style. Ayoade’s visual style shifts between stark and experimental, at times looking like a scratched Super 8 film. An impressive debut for Ayoade and a solid adaptation of the source material, Submarine is a funny, stylised account of one awkward teenager that defies Hollywood clichés.

3.5/5

Submarine plays the Melbourne International Film Festival on Thursday 28 July

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