Don’t ever trust the girl in the red coat.
14-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) has a lot going on in his life at this point in time. He’s found himself very much attracted to a mysterious girl he knows named Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige); he’s got a new neighbor (Paddy Considine); and is beginning to realize that his parent’s marriage is slowly, but surely, falling apart. Oliver may be you and a little naive, but he knows what he wants in life, and that’s to have love coming at him from all sides. Therefore, that means he’ll have to be able to handle his problems with both his parents, as well as the object-of-his-eyes. Though it may seem like an easy-task for Oliver at first, given the fact that he’s had everything mapped-out ever since the initial thoughts came to mind, he’s going to realize you can’t just plan life to go as exactly as you want it to. Sometimes, problems arise, over-lap one another and give us a choice as to what is better for us, and what matters most.
Gosh, what I would do to be 14-years-old again, man! I mean, jeesh! It seems like it was just yesterday that I was getting ready for that big, brave, new world they call “high school”, expecting the worst, but wanting the best. The same world in which I knew I wanted to meet the girl of my dreams, fall in love, get good grades, be happy, and still be able to maintain my youth throughout it all. And yeah, I guess that sort of happened (depending on who it is you ask), but that’s not what matters here.
But what I’m trying to get across with that whole random rant about my expectations going into high school and approaching the next stage of my life, is that the feelings of being young and youthful is exactly what resonates so well with me for certain movies, and that is exactly what happened here with me and Submarine.
Right from the very beginning, I felt like this was a Wes Anderson-clone with more naturalistic-realism thrown into the bit. That’s not to say that Anderson’s movies aren’t filled with real people, doing real, believable things, but for the most part, his movies do usually consist of people living lives inside the head of nobody else’s but his own. They’re fun, they’re light, and most of all, they’re charming, but they’re so whimsical, that they could never, ever be real people. That is, unless they were the biggest, most annoying hipster kids on the face of the planet.
Here though, writer/director Richard Ayoade feels like he’s going for more of a connection with his work and place us inside the real lives, of real people; more specifically, real kids that, believe it or not, feel just like you or I. Sure, Ayoade more often than not jumps into some wacky bits that dive deep into the mind of its narrator, Oliver himself, but they’re there for the sake of being day-dreams and images inside the head of Oliver. And for the most part, they’re used to show us just how wild Oliver’s imagination can be, therefore, making us believe more in the creative, ingenious ways he is able to finagle his way from fixing his parent’s marriage, to then fixing whatever problems he may be having with his girlfriend.
In fact, who really makes this movie work is Oliver Tate himself, played so effortlessly by Craig Roberts. Roberts was clearly a young kid while filming, which makes a lot of sense when you see how it is that he reacts to everything around him. It would have been real easy for Ayoade and Roberts to come together and make Oliver Tate an annoying, too-smart-for-his-own-good-and-age type of kid, but they don’t bother with such conventions as that. Instead, they give us a kid who is definitely smart and wise a year or two beyond his peers, but still doesn’t know nearly as much about life, making decisions, facing consequences, falling in love, feeling heartbroken, being dedicated, than he thinks he does.
Then again, weren’t we all like that at one point in our lives? Hell, come to think of it, some of us still are probably like that! I know I am! That’s why it makes so much sense when and feels honest when Oliver begins to grasp life itself, tries his hardest to make sense of it and at least give it all he’s got. He’s sympathetic, he’s likable and he’s sort of cool, but he’s also a real-life kid I could have seen myself hanging out with and maybe even talking to a few times in the early days of high school. Then, as time went on and I became a total jock, I would have left him at the “weirdo lunch table”. Sorry to state it like that, but hey, it was high school. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in them parks, man.
Like I was saying though, Roberts is always doing a good job with Oliver, having us believe in him as a character, as well as a 14-year-old that’s going through some growing pains almost nearly as much as his girlfriend is, Jordana Bevan. Everything I said about Roberts and his performance, is pretty much the same for Yasmin Paige and her performance – fun, likable, charming and most importantly, believable at all the right times and ways. They have a nice chemistry despite being young actors in a movie that’s sort of all dependent on them and their ability to make this work, but it clearly doesn’t phase them one bit.
As for the adults, they’re all detailed and layered just about right, although, if anything, their conflict with the story was one of the main problems I had with this. First of all, let me just say that Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor and even Paddy Considine all do fantastic work with their roles. They could have easily been dull in hopes that the kids’ personalities would just take everything over and get our minds away from the older-heads, but that’s not what happens. They’re just as, if not sometimes, even more charming than the little kiddies they’re sharing the same movie with.
However, where my problem with this movie comes in is how Ayoade handles both subplots, yet, never fully feels committed to either. The whole subplot about Oliver trying to win the affection of Jordana takes up most of the first-half, and is easily the best part of the whole movie. It’s sweet, tender, lovely, romantic and has plenty of choice tunes from Mr. Alex Turner himself. What else can I say about that!?!?
But once that plot sort of settles-down a bit and put on the back-burner, then the whole “possible affair” angle comes up and the movie gets a tad bit messy. Some of it still stayed charming, likable and fun, but for the most part, I could tell that a lot of what Ayoade was going for, didn’t really end up showing itself by the end. He tries to juggle these two strands of plot, and while they seem like they’d be an easy act to move around with, he seems to get his ideas and themes lost in a bit of a jumble.
In all honesty, it’s difficult to explain my problems with this movie, without describing everything, word-for-word, scene-for-scene, but just know this: Once the young love angle sort of chills out, so does this movie, and it’s kind of a bummer. Not saying that the movie as a whole is a bummer, I’m just saying that you should realize what you’ll get yourself into. Especially if you’re longing for nostalgia like me.
Damn being old!
Consensus: If you’re going through something of a mid-life crisis, Submarine, for the most part, will do you in and make you long for the good old days of falling in love for the first time, going into school, dealing with angst, and all that jazz. However, it’s not always focusing on that and when it doesn’t, it gets a tad messy.
7 / 10 = Rental!!