Submarine is a Welsh film that director Richard Ayoade adapted a screenplay based off the novel by the same name, about an awkward teenage boy and his first real relationship with a girlfriend. It is an honest coming of age story about how relationships are formed and destroyed which the main character experiences on his own and through his parents at the same time. A storyline that is often told but rarely executed this well.
Like most boys at the age of 15, Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is trying to discover himself. He is not all that popular at school but the fact that he loves reading the dictionary and prefers to be alone most of the time does not help matters. The prologue gives us background into the oddball character that is Oliver Tate before introducing us to his new obsession, love.
Chapter one is labeled, “Jordana”, who is also an unpopular girl who recently became single. Oliver imagines himself with her and is willing to do what it takes to win her over even if it involves doing things he would not normally do. One day Jordana instructs Oliver to meet her under a bridge and to bring a camera. She kisses him and takes photographs for proof.
It is revealed that Oliver has only kissed one other girl before Jordana, so he was rather excited to have kissed her. They stood up for each other when a bully picks on them and held hands when walking together afterwards. However, when he asked her if they were going out together now, she responds with “I’ll think about it.”
His mother is shocked when Oliver tells her he now has a girlfriend and relieved that her son is not gay. His father supported him when he heard the news by making him a cassette tape with songs, including some break up songs near the end in case things did not work out. This is as much support his parents could give him.
Oliver informs Jordana that his parents will be gone from the house Thursday night and not so subtly hints to her she could come over to have sex with him. She tells him she will come by and this makes Oliver as excited as he ever has been. He goes out of this way to make sure everything is perfect; the lights at the right levels and candles lit in his room. After the two make love she reminds him, “Don’t get cocky.”
Part two is called, “Graham Purvis”, who is an ex-boyfriend of his mother which startles Oliver who has been monitoring his parent’s sex life by the use of a dimming light switch. He concludes that his parents have not had sex for seven months as the light has not been dimmed low. It is not long before Oliver discovers his mother is having an affair with Graham and becomes worried that his parents may get divorced.
Oliver finds himself alone with his father and tries to tell him about his mother having an affair with Graham. His father shrugs it off saying that the two are just old friends. He is clearly not worried about the relationship between the two.
After speaking to his father, he realizes why his father became a marine biologist. He has felt down in the dumps for nearly his entire life which he describes the feeling as being under water. This goes along with the overall theme of the film which almost always involves water.
He decides to tell Jordana about the situation regarding his parents. He finds out that her mother has cancer. Even he admits that cancer trumps parental fidelity and fixing either of them is hardly easy. Jordana’s mother is having an operation which Oliver said he would come to but ultimately skips out on in order to try solving his parent’s issues.
Part three is entitled, “Show down”, which is more or less Oliver’s world crumbling down. Oliver goes to the beach where his mother and Graham are together again and saw that Jordana was with someone else. He finds out that his mother gave Graham a handjob. Adding to his misery, he receives a letter from Jordana stating what he was afraid was true, that their relationship was over and that she found someone new.
Oliver states rather realistically that none of this will matter when he is 38. Which is him trying to be optimistic but no one forgets their first love, not even the sophisticated Oliver Tate. Though, he has not spoken to Jordana for two months. The epilogue tells the conclusion to the wonderful story and ends the film perfectly.
Submarine showed glimpses of similarities to the work of Wes Anderson. From the chapter based storyline to the quirky yet sophisticated characters and the general art style of the film. Even the soundtrack seems like something that Anderson would have picked out.
The soundtrack is one of the best I have heard in years and most of the time completely relevant with the scenes in the film. Comprised of original songs from Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner, the soundtrack enhances the film instead of merely adding to it.
Not only was the soundtrack superb but so was the use of the camera and effects. Showing fantasy ideas and freeze frames the cinematography by Erik Wilson was splendid. At the same time the film was not too fancy and stayed true to its period with typewriters, cassette tapes and Polaroid cameras.
Craig Roberts plays the character of Oliver Tate appropriately, an awkward recluse that is far more mature for his age. His character is often compared to Holden Caulfield from “The Catcher in the Rye” and it is not hard to see the resemblance.
Jordana Bevan’s is a character every male has met before, a cute girl who forces you out of your comfort zone to which you going along with out of the sheer case of lust. She is bold which is visually present from her wearing a bright red coat always. Yasmin Paige was convincing as Jordana.
The story is not revolutionary by any means, in fact it is undoubtedly simple but it is told and executed marvelously. Submarine is not just for the artsy Wes Anderson crowd, who love quirky characters and whimsical cinematography, the film appeals to everyone with it’s genuine take on a coming of age story. A prime example of how romantic comedies should be.