Submarine - Blu-ray Review

'one of the best made, sharply observed, beautifully shot, endlessly endearing romances I have seen in a long time'

I had pre-judged Submarine. It's difficult not to. It is very clearly an Indie with a capital 'I'. It features an Indie boy and an Indie girl who, I thought, would probably potter around doing Indie things, circling a plot that was so Indie it may as well not exist, whilst affecting Indie personality traits that called for them to wear geek-chic duffel coats for no obvious reason. I was entirely wrong. Well, apart from the duffel coats.

Submarine is actually one of the best made, sharply observed, beautifully shot, endlessly endearing romances I have seen in a long time. It may be an Indie with a capital 'I' but it has none of the possibly negative connotations that brings with it. It is directed impeccably by Richard Ayoade, who follows in the footsteps of Gareth Edwards (last year's Monsters) as having charged into film-making with little care for the fact that he shouldn't be this good at it and that British-made films typically aren't a whole lot like this. And he's done it with duffel coats.

In my defence, I am not the only one who misjudged Submarine. Take the film's own synopsis, for example, which states that Oliver Tate's (Craig Roberts) two objectives are to 'lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover'. The second of those might become true - as Oliver tries to keep his mother (Sally Hawkins) from having an affair with hip psychic Graham (Paddy Considine) - but the first never is. The film is about Oliver - fifteen and awkward - trying to find his way in a relationship with Jordana (Yasmin Paige) and whilst sex may (or may not) feature, it is never the only subject of Oliver's pursuit or, really, of his often hilarious narration.

Whilst his narration is exemplary, really Oliver treads a line that brings him dangerously close to being unlikable. He's a literate, pretentious, swat with faux-cool hipster inflections that are summarised in a scene where he lists the things he's tried in order to make himself more of an individual. For all that though he is disarmingly innocent and his pursuit of Jordana is honest and full of an endearing integrity. Jordana too is not perfect. She's occasionally too brash to like and initially appears a more 'full of herself' version of Oliver. She's not though. Nor is Oliver as much of a bumbling misfit as he appears. They're imperfect characters, cautiously eyeing each other up and, eventually, deciding which imperfections they can cope with in each other, which they can iron out, which they can actually see in themselves. It's a perfect arc. I was hooked. I approached the third act not wanting to imagine any situation which didn't lead to them being together in the final reel.

Technically too the film is a marvel of smart, teenage-savvy, scripting ('Chips says that if a girl won't get it on with you on New Year's Eve, then you may as well cut it off' Oliver narrates, 'I'm beginning to think that we may grow apart') and beautiful photography. The blu-ray transfer is flawless. Ayoade's shot composition is constantly arresting. It comes with a level of almost mocking self-awareness but it doesn't let that get in the way of presenting a beautiful vista at sunset or a firework display in isolated night time.

For summary - and by way of lazy comparisons - when you think of Submarine, don't think of all the false prejudices mentioned above. Think perhaps of a better shot, better scripted (500) Days Of Summer, with more heart, more humour and better characters; re-located to Wales with added duffel coats. You can't get much better than that really.

Submarine is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on Monday 1st August 2011

Look further...

'loses the feel of its creativity by the final moments, but it’s quite a pleasant ride' - Bitchin' Film Reviews, 3/4


  1. I have heard nothing but good things about this and have ben waiting impatiently for it to reach my shores!! I hope that it is one that doesn't slip under the radar and not play here because generally if that happens it then isn't widely avaliable on DVD either.
    Must be one of the few films you have 5 starred this year?!

  2. Will definitely be a big shame if it doesn't make it over there. I think the five starers this year (going by UK release date) have been this, THE KING'S SPEECH and BLUE VALENTINE so yes, pretty lofty company.