UPDATE: The first trailer has just been released – and a lovely thing it is too:
On Wednesday evening I attended a preview screening of Richard Ayoade’s first full-length feature Submarine at the Charlotte Street Hotel courtesy of Moxie Pictures. Despite reading some good notices from the film’s initial premiere at TIFF in 2010 I was totally unprepared for just how wonderful Ayoade’s debut is.
Submarine centres on a precocious 15-year old’s efforts to lose his virginity and repair his parent’s marriage whilst simultaneously trying to make sense of his own, slightly melodramatic view if himself and the world around him. What Ayoade captures most successfully is Ollie’s almost unswerving dedication to a vision of himself that is simultaneously original and at the same time simply the sum of 101 stereotypes.
He tells us he’s started ‘reading the dictionary’ but that he’s also aware that ‘this is probably just an affectation’ and, as we return to shot after shot of him looking meaningfully out to sea from Swansea’s beaches alongside Super-8 footage of his burgeoning relationship with the Sphinx-like Jordana (a terrific performance from Yasmina Paige), it becomes apparent that the entire film is subject to our hero’s teenage delusions of grandeur.
The performances are uniformly good, particularly Noah Taylor and Craig Roberts, and I cannot remember laughing so often in the cinema in recent years. Scenes such as Oliver coming home to tell his parents that he has a girlfriend and encountering their barely-disguised joy at the fact that he isn’t gay have been played so many times before, and yet here it is handled with such a delicacy and an ear for the toe-curling niceties of a middle-class household that it appears fresh and fantastically funny.
Ayoade’s style is extremely reminiscent of that of Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach (interestingly Ben Stiller has a producer credit here and recently attempted to shake off his more broader comic stylings in Baumbach’s desperately dull Greenberg) right down the geek-chic costumes and Futura titles, but Submarine somehow feels both fresh and uniquely British. Anderson, in particular, now seems content with simply parodying his own style whilst, at the same time introducing his audience to more and more self-involved characters. Indeed, the same could be said of The Mighty Boosh, in which Ayoade first made his name and with whose creators he continues to collaborate.
Submarine is a film of such child-like exuberance and innocence that it would be a shame if Ayoade was soon to be directing a Noel Fielding vehicle in which our hero travels across Asia for no discernible reason except to show off some natty bespoke tailoring and provide a back-drop for a hip soundtrack soon to be found playing in Urban Outfitters.
Here’s hoping he bottles whatever lighting struck here and emerges as one of the great young voices of British film. Go and see Submarine when it’s released in the UK on 18th March, summer still won’t have arrived by then but I can guarantee that watching Ayoade’s film, despite being set on the wet and windy Welsh coast, is like spending 97 minutes in the brightest sunshine.
It’s early days yet but the new Smith Westerns record has to be making a play for best of 2011 come December, stand-out track ‘Dance Away’ is here alongside a great little tune from Australian band Cloud Control – like Fleet Foxes but with surfboards instead of neuroses.