How deep is the ocean?
Are you not depressed enough? Have you been thinking, “I sure could use some more misery in my life?” If so, then allow me to introduce you to the movie Submarine.
Growing up sucks. This is especially true for Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), an adolescent living in Wales. He faces torments by bullies and his parents are growing apart. He sees an opportunity for an improved social status by starting a relationship with his classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige), as he has calculated they are a good match. Just as his carefully planned romance with her blossoms, Oliver’s parents grow more and more distant, and his life, where everything fits neatly into place, gradually falls apart.
This is dark comedy at its darkest. At first, we laugh because Oliver is so emotionally detached from everything that’s going on around him. That which would be emotionally troubling for others is merely something to be analyzed (overanalyzed?) to Oliver. Later, though, things get even darker as life crumbles in bleak-yet-comedic ways for Oliver. We’re meant to laugh as his cold, clinical detachment fails him in his efforts to make things right. Finally, as the movie heads toward its climax, the quirkiness decreases and the drama increases, as the difficulties of the awkward years get all the more difficult.
The first part of Submarine is the most engaging, as Oliver and Jordana’s romance, such as it is, takes off. It’s both cute and cynical at the same time. During this, though, there’s a strong undercurrent of bullying and violence that the two face every day at school, which helped bring them together. When the story’s emphasis shifts from Jordana to Oliver’s parents, the story gets more mean-spirited, as mom and dad are on the verge of splitting and Oliver’s attempts to get them back together are misguided at best, shocking at worst.
It’s all a matter of tone. The plot description might make the movie sound like any other coming-of-age flick, but in its tone, it’s less like John Hughes or Napoleon Dynamite, and more like Welcome to the Dollhouse. The humor is very clever, the performances are solid, and the visuals are great, especially considering the itty-bitty budget. The tone, however, is so bitter and downbeat, the movie will be hard to get through—unless bitter and downbeat happens to be exactly the kind of movie you’re looking for.
The picture quality on the DVD is mostly good. There’s a little bit of grain and softness here and there, but that’s likely intentional by the filmmakers or the cause of the low budget. The audio is good as well, especially when the occasional morose pop ballad appears on the soundtrack. Extras are a short featurette and a collection of deleted and extended scenes.
Submarine is a dark comedy with an emphasis on the dark. It takes the ugliest bleakest parts of adolescence and puts them on screen. But, you know what? That’s exactly the movie the filmmakers set out to make, so in that sense, consider it a success.