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Monday, September 12, 2011

"Submarine", superb indie dramedy about growing up


I knew about "Submarine" thanks to Alex Turner's, Arctic Monkeys leader, soundtrack, a mini-LP that should be highlighted among the most exquisite small collection of tunes we have heard so far this year. Then I knew that behind this praised film it was Richard Ayoade, mastermind of "The IT Crowd", a very smart and funny TV show that is on my agenda of "have-to-see immediately". So expectations were pretty high.

"Submarine" has the word "indie" written all over. That means it won't be an easy digestion for some. The ones allergic to the Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze's cinema, or going to the classics, the Nouvelle Vague, should think it twice before watching it. Otherwise, be prepared to enjoy the film.

Because Ayoade's debut is a solid and stylish movie, that behind its artistic intentions wants to tell us a pretty simple and universally recognisable story: the coming-of-age of 15-year-old Oliver Tate, a character to be remembered. Teenage anxiety, social pressures, love, family turning points, an unparalleled imagination and the passion-frustration and indulgent self-reference of that age brilliantly encapsulated, with fun and grace, but also with heart and soul, in a bit more than 90 minutes. Note to self: must check the novel in which the film is based, written by Joe Dunthorne.

I'm amazed by Ayoade's ability, to me his biggest triumph, of creating such an attractive film visually that  at the same time doesn't have a single second that feels redundant. All the quirkiness, imagery (such and appealing and peculiar Wales is portrayed), even Alex Turner's songs, are there for a reason. They are there because of Oliver. They complement his unique personality. And they serve the purpose of "Submarine": capturing the essence, joyful and painful, confusing and engaging, of growing up.

Oliver's is such a complex and rich character that Craig Roberts's performance can't be praised enough. He is the master pillar upon where "Submarine" is built. And is not alone. Yasmin Page as his girlfriend Jordana, mysterious, mischievous but heartbreakingly fragile, or Oliver's frustrated parents, played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor (superb in his off-beat, artificial shell he built for himself) are equally outstanding. In their shoulders, the comedy and tragedy of the story flows naturally and recreates a life that we, through the eyes of "our" Oliver, might find surreal or awkward, but is 100% recognisable.

A unique film, with a very personal language and sensibility. Admittedly, it might turn some down, which is a shame, because "Submarine" is the excellent start of a promising filmmaking career.

SCORE: 7,75/10 

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