‘Submarine’: Coming-of-age tale gets too self-conscious

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, June 10, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

If it weren’t as self-conscious as its protagonist, “Submarine” might stand a chance at being a better coming-of-age picture.

Yes, we’re used to seeing movies about winsome, self-aware teenagers facing life’s challenges. But director Richard Ayoade can’t stop reminding us about how clever his

movie is about it all.

The smart kid in question is Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a 15-year-old misfit who lives in Swansea, Wales. He wears his hair like Bud Cort in “Harold and Maude,” listens to Serge Gainsbourg LPs, and fantasizes about how despondent his classmates would be if he died suddenly.

Actually, they probably wouldn’t notice him missing. But his fantasies are like that, and another one involves the mostly expressionless Jordana (Yasmin Paige), a classmate Oliver would very much like to get close to.

Oliver isn’t a particularly vivid character, given his narrator status and his collection of random quirks. Jordana, however, is refreshingly peculiar as a love interest: She’s not charming, has little actual interest in Oliver and seems touched by pyromania.

We also get to know Oliver’s parents, a great source of anxiety to him because of their passionless marriage; two marvelous actors inhabit these roles. Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky”) is the mother, and the eccentric Noah Taylor (“Max”) is the father, a bearded marine biologist with an awkward approach to speaking with his son about life’s realities.

Oliver fears his mother is in dangerous proximity to an old flame, now a self-styled motivational guru (Paddy Considine). And it’s true, this guy is what passes for a slick act in Swansea.

All of these elements make for an enjoyable-enough cruise through the coming-of-age realm, with moody seacoast photography thrown in for a bit of briny flavor.

“Submarine” isn’t dumb, although Ayoade (adapting a novel by Joe Dunthorne) has a tendency to lean a little too heavily on the example of “Rushmore” director Wes Anderson.

But by the time Oliver admitted his fondness for “The Catcher in the Rye,” I was beginning to lose patience. Every new generation has the right to its own coming-of-age pictures, absolutely. The least we could do is honor their own cultural-literary touchstones, instead of reaching back 60 years for the usual suspects.

“Submarine” ½

A coming-of-age tale about a 15-year-old Welsh kid who worries almost as much about his parents’ deep-freeze marriage as about his own chances with a pretty, expressionless classmate. Enjoyable enough to watch, but it gets a little too self-consciously quirky for its own good.

Rated: R for language, subject matter

Showing: Seven Gables

Talk to us

More in Life

The all-new Kia Sportage X-Pro model comes standard with all-terrain tires and 17-inch matte black off-road wheels. (Kia)
2023 Kia Sportage has two new models aimed at the outdoorsy

The X-Pro and X-Pro Prestige have all-terrain tires, all-wheel drive, and all kinds of ground clearance.

Women came from all over the Pacific Northwest to “glamp” and raise money to send girls to Girl Scout Camp from Sept. 16-18. The next opportunity to glamp at Camp River Ranch will be Sept. 8-10, 2023. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Women’s glamping retreat raises money to send local girls to camp

I’ve been the camper, the counselor, the Girl Scout leader and the mom. Now, I was the glamper.

People stroll along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, one of Europe’s most interesting historic walks, as Edinburgh Castle looms in the distance. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Edinburgh, the cultural heart of Scotland, packs a cultural punch

Once a medieval powerhouse, it is today one of Europe’s most lively and festive cities.

Dan Neumeyer peers out the window of his Hummingbird Yurt. (David Welton)
Otherworldly structures constructed on Whidbey Island

The small buildings — yurts, with a Western twist — were built by Earth dweller Dan Neumeyer.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

Planting containers in the shoulder season

September and October can be tricky times of the year when it… Continue reading

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Near-death experience planted seeds for downtown Everett toy store

Former attorney Tom Harrison survived 9/11. It caused him to ask what’s important in life. Today, he runs MyMyToyStore.

2021 Dodge Ram 1500 TRX (Dodge)
2021 Dodge Ram 1500 TRX

The latest salvo is the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4x4 pickup.

Mazda CX-30 Crossover (Mazda)
2021 Mazda CX-30 Premium Plus

The crossover seats five adults and delivers the freedom to match active lifestyles.

2022 Kia Sportage Hybride SX Prestige

The 2022 Kia Sportage is marketed as the “ultimate urban SUV.”

Presented by the Edmonds Driftwood Players, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” — a murder-mystery that is the world’s longest-running play — will run through Oct. 2 at Wade James Theatre in Edmonds. (Photo courtesy Dale Sutton)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

MUSIC Mill Creek Summer Concert Series: The music concludes with Big Dog… Continue reading

2022 BMW X3 M40i (BMW)
2022 BMW X3 M40i

BMW is probably the best at naming cars with letters and numbers.