Submarine is about a British teenager trying to navigate his budding relationship with a hip girl while investigating what he believes to be his parent’s disintegrating relationship. If Wes Anderson had directed Stolen Kisses it would have been much better than Submarine but that was the movie I was reminded of and it was Anderson’s style that Submarine pays homage to. The relationship between the young Oliver and his modish girlfriend Jordana is interesting for a while but the best moments in the film are generated by his parents, played by Noah Taylor and the always fantastic Sally Hawkins. Their interaction with Oliver make the moments between Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy in American Pie feel perfectly normal. They’re funny and sweet and go a lot further to explain this poor young man’s feeling of isolation than the often insufferable voice over. It’s a little too cute for it’s own good but doesn’t drift into (500) Days of Summer territory but doesn’t have the same deft handling of whimsy and emotion that Beginners has.
I mentioned Stolen Kisses and in my book, being compared with that film is about as high of praise one can heap on a movie, but Submarine clearly would rather be a 21st Century version of The 400 Blows (there’s even two running on the beach scenes. Two!) but it doesn’t have the darkness or the teeth to be lumped together with that greatest of all movies. It’s charming often and entertaining throughout, sometimes achieves a kind of loveliness and I liked it a lot more than the way this reads but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be watching a better version of the same movie.