I have a bit of a problem with the genre of ‘indie’ films. Usually, if the words ‘quirky’ or ‘kooky’ get bandied about too much in reviews, I tend to shy away from investigating further, terrified of spending yet more disappointing hours pretending to enjoy a film that other people assure me I’ll absolutely LOVE. After Me, You and Everyone We Know won a place in my heart after a chance cinema visit in Cornwall and my love for Ghost World never wavered (mainly due to a slight obsession with Daniel Clowes), the slew of copycat types were pushed on me; 500 Days Of Summer and Eagle Vs. Shark being the most memorably painful. As well as raising the worrying question that maybe my friends didn’t actually know me that well after all, it also put me off any film that a) featured a knowing Smiths’ or other 80s indie band reference, b) starred Zooey Deschanel or c) relied on a lot of ‘cute’ illustrations in the trailer. I realise how much of prat this mini-rant is making me sound, but I feel it’s important to get things straightened out so that others don’t make the same mistake I ever so nearly did.
Submarine doesn’t feature Zooey Deschanel, but its trailer is pretty heavy on the typical indie flick set-up; pseudo deep and philosophical introductory narration by lost and awkward character (wearing an anorak), lots of alternating zooms and camera angles and Jacques Brel crooning over footage of a young couple running around an industrial estate, while containers explode like fireworks in slow motion. So far, so offputting.
BUT WAIT. The reviews said it was actually really good. I had an Orange Wednesday code in my hand and hope in my heart. And no other plans. So I decided to cast off my predisposed (and unfounded) snobbery and went and saw the bloody thing. And it was actually really, really great.
In a nutshell, Oliver Tate is our hero. A (fifteen year old?) teenage boy, living in Wales with his parents, who he fears are on the brink of an unusually calm divorce (aided by the new presence of a mulleted mystic), and so as a deterence tries to spy on them constantly. There's a love interest; Jordana, an inbetweener from school who wears a red duffel coat and DMs and enjoys flicking matches for no reason (she has enviably good hair). It's the perfect set up, but what really keeps Submarine from falling into the overflowing bin of other 'kooky' failures is the script. Written by Richard Ayoade (It Crowd/Mighty Boosh), the characters manage to be amusing without being too fictitious (although how many 15 years olds are that 'awkward' and yet come across as being totally self assured? Come on now), and the strong streak of humor that flashes through every plot twist and narrative never falters. Sure, there are a few cheesier moments when someone cracks out the Super 8 film, but generally the comic timing and sentiments exposed are actually quite touching and fun. Go and see for yourself.