I must admit, I was at first expecting a lot more from this after reading rave reviews in respectable sources, such as The Guardian. Yet as the narrative progressed and the dark, comical, characters took hold , a lasting impression was left impregnated in my memory.
Richard Ayoade, known for his role as awkward, odd-bod, computer nerd Moss in Channel Four's successful The IT Crowd, has actually admitted to preferring being behind the scenes rather than in front of them. Indeed, he is a likeable director, who is in thrall with kitsch elements of the past. The characters in Submarine look as if they're from the late '70s or early '80s, although as in Peter Hewitt's 1997 adaptation of The Borrowers, Tim Burton's Willy Wonka and the films of Jean Pierre Jeunet, the time frame is never identified, leaving one to revel in the slighty skewered retro-nuevo alternate reality. In this instance, the snorkel jackets and moppy hair of my own childhood resonate warmly.
Ayoade has clearly watched a lot of films too, with Submarine's pacing and structure owing much to Tony Richardson's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner and of course The Nouvelle Vague films that inspired it. Elements of the '60's kitchen sink movies (the dark hue) and the realist characterisation of early '70s low-key pieces like Bronco Bullfrog inform the overall feel too. Hollywood this ain't, although saying that, the bitter sweet confused teenage edge of Sofia Coppola's and Sam Mende's trail blazing US indie staples The Virgin Suicides or Sam Mendes' American Beauty are evident in the nihlism of the fucked up and confused teenage protaginists.
The plot? Well, it matters little. Weird boy falls for weird girl, repressed housewife causes strife when an ex turns up, the kids have issues and the story builds to its climax.
As an ironic free serving of British indie film there are far worse, and on Blu-ray it looks an absolute treat. The central characters all deserve the acolades, although the increasingly faultless Paddy Considine wins the show as the mulleted cosmic guru.
Jon 'Mojo' Mills