I hardly ever do this. Usually after a I watch a film, I spend a couple of hours reading other reviews, assembling my thoughts and considering how I truly feel about a film. But not now. I just finished Submarine a couple of minutes ago and I am bursting with emotions. I am going to try something new. I am not going to read what other people write. I am not going to hold back. I am going to just write what comes to mind about this wonderful film. Whether or not you agree with my assessment is irrelevant to me.
The most emotionally relevant films are ones that reflect your past experiences and shed more light on them. Although I was never a boy who wanted desperately to lose his virginity, I did have a first love. A first love that I have made mistakes with. In this film, the boy makes tons of mistakes with the girl that he feels gets him. They share a sense of adventure, of rebelliousness and of coy phrases. But he is distracted. He wants nothing more than for his parents to stay together. This is exceedingly difficult as his mother is feeling neglected. She acts out when an ex-flame moves in next door. They end up spending an inordinate amount of time together as his father sinks deeper and deeper into his melancholia. So not only is Oliver (the main character) dealing with his parents possibly splitting up, but his girlfriend’s mom is dying of cancer. He is too young to deal with such a heavy load. So he lashes out, but in ways that a neurotic kid does. He takes a lot of antidepressants and pees on his mother’s ex-flame’s belongings. This doesn’t seem too productive and it isn’t. He can’t delay the inevitable with either his mother nor his girlfriend’s.
I must talk about how this film is directed. Richard Ayoade is known as the quirky nerd on the I.T. Crowd. But this film shows that he has more to him than just an incredible sense of comic timing (I love the poop out of the I.T. Crowd, by the way). He has the ability to capture the flesh of new love. This is honestly one of the few times that I truly saw my experience with the flush of new love on film. It is awkward. It is rebellious. And it is full of passion. The last scene with Oliver and his first love is full of subtly. This act that they are engaging in is important to only them. Someone from the outside would think it was just childish games, but to them it is a show of both affection and playfulness. This scene and some themes of this film remind me strongly of the 400 Blows. They are both a coming of age film that doesn’t want to be that. They both show infinite affection for the main character and they both give me a feeling that I have just watched something monumental.
I responded so strongly to this film for such an intangible reason. The feelings and the events that Oliver goes through is so mundane and yet so impactful on his life that it causes me to examine my own life. Each small choice and event that happens around you can create a tidal wave that can cause years of repercussions. Whether it is Oliver’s mother choosing to go out with her ex-flame on New Years Eve or Oliver choosing his parents over his girlfriend, it is hard to recover what seemed to be a natural decision. Throughout the film Oliver asks both of his parents at different times the same question: If he and the opposite parent are trapped in a burning building and are equally hard to get to which one would you save first. The answer to the question is how Oliver determines how committed the parents are to each other. But what he is getting at and what I think the whole film is about is your gut reaction. What is your first instinct? If you had to choose between your mother and your boyfriend or girlfriend who would you choose?