Film #8: Submarine (2010)

director: Richard Ayoade
watched on: 29/3

I’m getting lazy again, whoops. Well, it’s a combination of factors, really. I’ve left the review for “Green Mars” for so long now that I’m just going to combine it into the review for “Blue Mars”, the final installment in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. That and I wanted to make the “official announcement” for anyone who cares (probably no-one) that I won’t be trying to read 52 books in 2011, because after the three doorstoppers that were Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, I’m now hideously behind. So I’d rather take it at a leisurely pace and just remember to update this more frequently. Also, to bring us back to the true subject matter, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of this film, which I essentially went to on a whim, either, just like the last one. But overall, probably a little more positive… and I’m actually familiar with the background genre.

Or I say a whim, although it was slightly more well-thought-out than that in that I think Richard Ayoade is a very funny man (I’ve been watching The IT Crowd again over the past couple of days) and I wanted to see his first feature film. But the essentials of whimness are there; after all, I pretty much decided to go to the film right before going to it…

So it’s a coming-of-age story set in dreary Wales, where all the characters are a bit inane and do stupid teenagery stuff. Fine. The only thing is, I think I’m a bit past coming-of-age stories in general – not much that the characters were doing I could identify with in any major way except for that awkward young person thing that they had going, and I couldn’t quite understand why the two main characters were interested in each other, especially her for him.

Anyway, there’s not really a good way to say it, but it really had that first feature film vibe to it – Ayoade is still a newcomer to filmmaking and needs to hone his style, as do the actors, particularly the two young ones. The boy in particular could be a bit wooden (and most of the pictures online are of him looking gormless).

Basically, there was some good subtle comedy in there and I spent half the film chuckling away to myself… it’s just that then there was a rather abrupt change of pace when Issues such as cancer or divorce and depression start being introduced into the story, and I’m left sitting there unsure whether I’m really allowed to be laughing at the film anymore. Mood whiplash, as they call it on TV Tropes. I suppose it’s meant to be true-to-life, or something? I don’t really care, because true-to-life doesn’t always work in films. Here it was just a bit slipshod; not executed well enough.

At the same time, I did think it was one of the few films where the characters acted in a somewhat believable way. At least, I didn’t think the boy was being a complete idiot – he panicked like any sane person would, while the girl was self-centred right the way through. Again, not sure what he saw in her (which I guess is where the everyone-in-films-is-an-idiot trope comes right back into play)… but then, I guess I never had the experience of falling in “love” at 16, so I don’t really know what to make of it.

Another thing that annoyed me was the overuse of the slight grey/sepia tone (as seen in the photo above). I’m pretty sure Wales isn’t that grey and dreary, and that it was a cheap device to make the environment seem worse that it perhaps actually was. To me, this forced pessimism clashed with the idealism of young love that it presented. It all comes back to me not quite believing that she is interested in him back and not quite understanding why he is interested in her. Meh.

Anyway, overall, good, and quite a funny film, but definitely needs improvement.


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