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The Independent Critic

Craig Roberts, Noah Taylor, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine
Richard Ayoade
Rated R
97 Mins.
The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay (DVD)
~The Making Of Submarine; Deleted Scenes

 "Submarine" Review 
It always saddens me when a really good indie flick goes relatively unnoticed once it arrives in Indianapolis.

While Indianapolis is used to seeing arthouse flicks at Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema (and we still miss good ole' Ron Keedy and Key Cinemas), more and more wide release theaters are dabbling with studio-based indie flicks such as this flick, Submarine, brought to theaters courtesy of The Weinstein Company and the film's producer, Ben Stiller. In this case, AMC Washington Square is the exclusive outlet serving as host for the flick, and having gone to this theater twice in the past month I can assure you it's worth the trip out to Indy's far-Eastside to check out this slice of Wes Anderson meets Greenberg meets Harold and Maude.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts, Jane Eyre) is a 15-year-old with a lot on his mind, mostly figuring out how to lose his virginity before his next birthday and how to prevent the divorce of his parents (played to perfection by Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham) and Noah Taylor (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Submarine is not too far removed from Youth in Revolt, though it is immensely more satisfying intellectually and emotionally.

Despite being far too intelligent for that which he desires most, sex, Oliver becomes rather smitten with Jordana (Yasmin Paige, The Sarah Jane Adventures) who seems to be a more confident version of himself. Their "romance" largely consists of ever so slightly increasing moments of sweetness interwoven with an abundance of self-analysis, intellectual ramblings, slight bullying and fire-setting.

With a largely British cast and a setting in Wales, you can rest assured that Submarine doesn't fall into the Americanized Hollywood machinery that requires an abundance of teen sex jokes and potty mouth humor. Instead, Submarine relies almost exclusively upon the power of the wryly delivered spoken word and scenes where facial expression and body language blend together to really say everything that needs to be said.

Craig Roberts, who was named one of the "55 Faces of the Future" in Nylon Magazine's 2010 Young Hollywood issue, resembles a young John Lennon sprinkled with the personality traits of Holden Caulfield and bears more than a passing similarity to a young Bud Cort. Roberts' Oliver serves as both narrator and hero for the story, a rather asocial romantic with a bent for inner dialogue both dramatic and delusional. It's rather stunning how perfectly matched Roberts is with Yasmin Paige, mostly a veteran of British television who at first seems to underplay her character until you realize midway through the film how incredibly invested you've become in her story as it unfolds with increasing drama.

As we've come to expect, Sally Hawkins is top notch as Oliver's neurotic and distracted mother. Oliver comes to believe that his mother has become a bit too distracted by Graham (Paddy Considine), an old flame of hers who is back in town with a rather hypnotic New Age-style program of colors and auras and seductive ways. Considine is a scene-stealer here, a sort of blue collar mystic who seems to be making up things as he goes along. Wes Anderson vet Noah Taylor captures the film's mood perfectly as Oliver's nerdish yet sympathetic and endearing father.

There's no question that the similarities to Wes Anderson flicks are intentional, from the ways that D.P. Erik Wilson sets up the camera angles to first-time helmer Richard Ayoade's use of quirky transitional titles to the film's greyish tones. As is true with Anderson, Submarine may be an acquired taste but it's a taste worth acquiring. The film is complemented nicely by Andrew Hewitt's sprite original score and with a film such as this one it would be negligent to not mention Gary Williamson's stellar work in production design.

While there's no question that Submarine is not quite the type of flick for everyone, fans of Landmark's usual fare should find much to appreciate about this terrific feature film debut from Ayoade. If you're in Indianapolis, venture on over to the city's Eastside and check out this indie flick and encourage this theater's willingness to serve up quality indie fare over standard Hollywood tripe.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic