Last night we watched Submarine. Most people will probably know director Richard Ayoade as the ‘crunch’ visiting shaman in The Mighty Boosh, or ‘Moss’ in The IT Crowd, or possibly also as director of dark, surreal music videos for bands such as Arctic Monkeys (see Crying Lightening). I think this man is brilliant; funny, intelligent, awkwardly beautiful and beautifully awkward. He not only seems to play characters who are uncomfortable in their own skin, but seems to still hold a little of that teenage quality we all experienced; a strange gangliness of limbs and a fluttering in eye contact which both lay bare a humble soul and a completely adorable creature. So I think anyway.
This could just be his own characterisation, a method of separating his real life from the incredible world in which his talent is developing, but seeing his first film last night, I doubt it.
Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine follows the dead pan narrative of fifteen year old Oliver Tate (Craig Robberts) and his struggling teen life in Wales. Donned predominantly in his toggled parker, Oliver sets out to try and save his parents marriage (mainly from the dreaded ‘ninjas’ next door) as well as understand that first true love, the marvellous and slightly terrifying Jordana. This, in essence, is the whole film, but done with a great beauty.
The trials and tribulations of being fifteen, for most of us, have been locked in a vault and viewed only when necessary through misty lenses. I know for my part, recalling the awkwardness of that age can be painful and perhaps not as accurate through age and hindsight. But this is one of the things I completely adored about this film. It shows both the narrow view of singular ‘wants’ alongside the feeling that the whole universe is somehow out to get you and ruin your life. It shows that the realistically ‘small’ moments of our teen years (and for some like Jordana, pretty catastrophic moments) feel like some form of asteroid crash, affecting us for life and marking a devastating path on which to follow. That these things WILL matter when you’re 35. But Ayoade does all this so subtly. The film does not rely on pointless dialogue, in fact there is an awful lot of quiet and stillness within it, but uses the direction of its rather talented young actors to deliver these complex teen emotions with single looks, with tender moments, with a solitary tear.
However, this film should not simply be sold off as just some teenage melancholy. It is a beautiful film. Shot in sombre colours and using the natural beauty of the Welsh coast in bleak weather, everything in this film demonstrates a clear understanding and relation to how every single one of us has felt growing up. How many of us still might feel as grown ups; awkward and as if life is not entirely in our control. With it comes the dry, cynical yet naive humour of its narrator Oliver Tate (its rather a funny film, almost self deprecating), a boy who, in some cringing ways, seems so much older than he should. And in some ways, so similar to the film’s director.
I feel that not only love and devotion has been poured into the making of this film, put the personality of the Director himself. There is a dark, stuttering, gawkishness throughout; woven into the fabric of each character and the stumbling of those important conversations. But it is far from uncomfortable. Somehow, under Ayoade’s care, these supposed personal attributes become graceful, beautiful even. They make for a stunning film. However, I believe this is only the beginning. I have high expectations for Richard Ayoade and his future career. If this is his first shot at ‘real’ film making, then we should wait with baited breath for what individual spectacle may come next.
For now however, feeling almost like an insult, I shall leave you with a clip of his work in The IT Crowd. Go watch Submarine while you can, you’ll not regret the pennies I guarantee.