Submarine (2009)

(no real spoilers this time)

Submarine is a brilliant movie about growing up that really tries to put you into the mindset of an adolescent, thereby showing how our culture tries to shape you into something you don’t want to be. Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is a 15-year-old boy who struggles with love and the unhappy marriage of his parents. The movie follows his point of view and director Richard Ayoade uses every trick in the book to make the movie interesting and also to show how Oliver’s mind works. The directorial style is what really makes the movie work because the tricks rarely feel like showing off, but are effective and clever, always leaving you waiting what will come next. The acting is great, especially in the main role, the songs by Alex Turner fit perfectly and even the production design adds to make the movie special, mainly by using a somewhat obvious, but still successful color scheme of reds and blues.

Early on, Oliver makes it clear that life is very difficult. “I find the only way to get through life, is to picture myself in an entirely disconnected reality.” We know the technique of showing daydreams of protagonists from other movies, but I find introducing them with this sentence, shows very clearly why they exist. They’re a form of escapism that seems necessary because life appears to be unbearable. And look at his life. He is in love with Jordana (Yasmin Paige), but he barely allows himself to listen to his emotions, instead going through a checklist of rational reasons why they could work out together (which doesn’t work at all). Romance is not, well, “romantic”, but just a series of potential traps to walk into. It doesn’t help that Jordana is herself so detached from her emotions that she has never learned to admit any.

His parents are no help. His father (Noah Taylor) is relaxed and understands Oliver a little bit, but still suffers from depression and is also incapable of dealing socially with people. His mother (Sally Hawkins) treats him not naturally, but only the way she read it in books. It’s awkward all the time and again, they’re products of a society that asks us not to listen to our emotions and instincts, not even (or especially not) with their own children. Just look at the way they act, when he tells them he has a girlfriend. We always blame the teenager for being super difficult during puberty  but most of them just realize how fucked up everything around them really is at that time. The movie does a good job of capturing that feeling and bringing it to life, with all its unpleasantness, but also with the ways youths try to escape it.