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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Submarine

October 4th, 2011

Submarine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Submarine came out early in the summer and before its release there was a lot of buzz. However, while the film's reviews were outstanding and it topped $10,000 on the per theater chart its opening weekend, it struggled when it tried to expand and never found a real measure of mainstream success. Now that it is out on the home market, will it find a larger audience? Or is its appeal limited to critics and art house crowds?

The Movie

We meet Oliver Tate as he talks about his life philosophy and his view on his place in the world. It's about as logical as one would expect coming from a not yet 16-year old boy. At least he doesn't suffer from low self-esteem. He's in love with Jordana Bevan, another outcast, not that he considers himself an outcast. She has social grace and is more popular, but he thinks he has a shot. His first attempt goes poorly. (He teases an overweight girl in his class, Zoe, but she ends up falling in a pond as a result. This is clearly more than he was intending to do and he feels a lot of guilt as a result.

Meanwhile his home life is not so good either. His mother and father haven't had sex for seven months and they are drifting apart. Worse still, his mother's old boyfriend, Graham, just moved in next door. Granted, he moved in with his girlfriend, but he is still quick to start hitting on Oliver's mom.

Oliver decides to make up for bullying Zoe, which makes us feel more sympathy for the character. But he does so by writing her a pamphlet so she can benefit from his wisdom. [Insert Facepalm Here] However, Jordana intercepts this pamphlet and blackmails him. She tells him to meet her at the train bridge and to bring a camera and his diary. Her plan is to photograph them kissing and use that to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. It doesn't quite work out as she planned, but they do start going out after that.

However, as his parents relationship starts to fall apart, so does Oliver's and Jordana's. Jordana's mother is very ill and that puts an additional emotional strain on her and all attempts by Oliver to fix things seem to make them worse.

The details of that are spoilers, so I'll end the plot synopsis there and get on with the review. First the bad news. Submarine tries a little too hard to be quirky, which is a flaw of a lot of independent films. Secondly, the gap between Oliver's opinion of himself and his actual abilities is so large that he is hard to be sympathetic towards at times. The good news is, these are minor faults and even in these parts of the film, more works than doesn't. For instance, the quirkiness of the movie is an asset, but perhaps if it were toned done just a little bit, it would have been better. Oliver's poor decision making ability helps drive the plot and results in some of the funniest moments of the film, even if it makes him harder to sympathize with at times.

The acting in the movie is superb right across the board. You expect good performances from Sally Hawkins, for instance, but younger actors are always a bigger risk. Fortunately, both Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige are up to the task. The script from writer / director Richard Ayoade is also a huge asset for the film, who is best known for his work on TV, mostly for his acting, although he has written and directed for TV in the past. He clearly has a future in film should he decide to take it.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with nine deleted / extended scenes that have a total running time of 13 minutes plus there is an 11-minute making of featurette. That's not a lot of extras, but not too bad for an indie import. I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, so I can't say how it looks and sounds. But it doesn't have any additional extras and it costs 37% more. That's a little much for this type of release.

The Verdict

Perhaps Submarine was a little too quirky for mainstream audiences, or perhaps the studio didn't advertise it correctly. Either way, it deserves to be seen by more people than saw it in theaters. There are not a lot of extras on either the DVD or the Blu-ray but it is still worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Submarine