A fine debut

First-time director Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’ is a clever coming-of-age comedy

"Submarine" is a deft/daft comedy about coming of age in a media age, when all coming-of-age problems have been cataloged in books, movies, TV.

When 15-year-old Oliver (Craig Roberts) latches on to his first real girlfriend (Yasmin Page), he cements the bond by handing her relevant cusp-of-adulthood novels, and recommending helpful films.

The been-there/felt-that vibe is cleverly underscored by director Richard Ayoade, who peppers the movie with visual references to youth-y Euro cinema from the 1960s.

So it's not just a movie about Oliver - it's aimed at a generation and an audience of Olivers, who upon entering adolescence were handed deodorant, a razor and a copy of "The Catcher in Rye."

Of course, knowing that someone understands your plight doesn't mean your plight ceases to exist, and Oliver has his own set of issues.

His parents (Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins) may be splitting up - mom is attracted to an old boyfriend (Paddy Considine) next door, a goofball mentalist with one of the funniest vans in the history of movies.

And Oliver's own relationship is fraught - his girlfriend's mum is desperately ill, and irony provides not much solace. No book, poem or clever reference is going to replace the comfort she may receive from a sympathetic ear.

"Submarine" manages to make this serious point without ever becoming serious, or losing its up-tempo style. Ayoade is a talented British comedian known via Netflix for his work on BBC's "The IT Crowd" and the cult Brit show "Gareth Marenghi's Dark Place."

An initial attempt to import Ayoade's unique persona as a performer failed (there was a botched U.S. "IT Crowd" pilot), but "Submarine" eliminated the middleman.

Ayoade directs, he doesn't star, but his sensibility is very much in play, and helps carry the day. He also has an eye, and can handle actors.

In all, I'd say an interesting new voice, and a director to watch.


Directed by Richard Ayoade. With Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Yasmin Paige, Craig Roberts, Paddy Considine. Distributed by The Weinstein Company.

Running time: 1 hours, 37 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for language and some sexual content).