SUBMARINE (Ayoade, 2010) - First things first: this movie is incredibly assured stylistically, with amazing compositions and experiments with visuals and something to admire in almost every shot. It’s worth seeing for that alone. Narratively, it’s a bit shakier, too quirky by half sometimes, way over the top in others. But there’s still much that works: the protagonist is very sharply drawn, with some aspects I remembered from my own time as a terrible teen, insecure but at the same time horribly conceited, unsure of my place in the world but certain of what I didn’t want to be. Oliver veers into caricature at times (he lends the girlfriend books: a Shakespeare play that’s “better than Hamlet, in my opiniong, Nietsche and CATCHER IN THE RYE), but I could identify with his quest for something identifying (he had a hat phase - I had a tie phase), and the little boy is sometimes very clearly visible behind the tough(ish) facade.
What didn’t work, then? Well, mostly - it grieves me to say - Paddy Considine’s character. I mean, he’s a great actor, and he throws himself into this part, but his psychic/hippie/ninja is just a bit too outlandish, and while he did elicit some laughs, I think the comedy was a bit too broad when compared to the subtler humor of the rest of the film.
It must be tough making quirky coming-of-age films now. It’s easy to be dismissed as a Wes Anderson rip-off, or too twee. SUBMARINE is very affected (it’s a movie where a father gives his son a music compilation to celebrate his first love - including some break-up songs for when it inevitably goes wrong) but it’s grounded enough at times to distinguish itself, with the mid-80s setting giving it its own feel. And it feels, at times, like a great representation of memory, where the way a girl sweeps her hair behind her ears can be more important than anything else.