I was leery, prior to attending Richard Ayoade's "Submarine" (UK) that capsule synopses had already labled it, "The Welsh Rushmore". Similar to Guy Ritchie--who was for a while the English Tarrantino--was Ayoade's first feature film simply going to reveal him to be a British Wes Anderson? Before answering, I would point out how terribly reductive such labels are, and furthermore the problem inherent in incessantly comparing UK films to American films as a measure of their appeal and acceptability. Look at what we are to infer: that Submarine can only be good where it manages to capture resemblances to Rushmore.
"Submarine" is not Rushmore. For while the latter is absurdist, and quirky (a dreaded word now in my book) "Submarine" has a decidedly emotional core that drives it thoughtfully and movingly, however quirky its characters may be. I never came close to being moved in Rushmore--but Ayoade's film, underneath some hilarious dream sequences and stylistics--has a bittersweet poetry to it at times that truly tugs at the heart.
Central to this capacity of the film, is the portrayal of not only how awkward virginal youth is, but how fragile it is beneath the failings of our parents. Sounds banal as a theme, but this is where Ayoade's skill for texture knows how to hit the mark.
I am going to skip plot summary for now and say that I found the burgeoning love story between Oliver Tate (Craig Roach) and Jordana (Yasmin Paige) really beautiful at times--and nuanced by Oliver's anxiety over his clinically depressed father. Great comedy from Paddy Considine who plays a New Age, mulletted psychic...and Sally Hawkins, as Oliver's eccentric Mum. Soundtrack is excellent too--key songs by Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) add great tone to the film. Whether the film finds success in America or not--UK audiences will LOVE this film. Trying to put my finger on it, but it has an element of nostalgia for a decidely British everyday childhood that is very well realized, and I know people in the UK will appreciate.
As Cameron Bailey, co-director of the Toronto FilmFest,aptly said, Ayoade is someone to "watch closely" as he begins a feature film career as a director. He has not only technical skill and comedy, but intelligent depths.