Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine follows quirky outcast Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) as he begins dating a similarly oddball fellow student (Yasmin Paige’s Jordana) and, eventually, sets out to repair his parents’ crumbling marriage. There’s little doubt that Submarine, for the most part, comes off as a fairly typical coming-of-age story, as first-time filmmaker Richard Ayoade hits virtually all of the notes that one has come to expect from the genre – with the pervasive familiarity of the narrative initially offset by Ayoade’s off-kilter visual and stylistic choices. (It also doesn’t hurt that the tentative romance between Roberts and Paige’s respective characters is genuinely sweet and compelling.) The watchable yet far-from-spectacular atmosphere persists right up until the movie segues into its increasingly underwhelming midsection, which is, unfortunately, devoted primarily to Oliver’s tedious efforts at figuring out just what’s going on with his parents (ie is his mother having an affair with Paddy Considine’s Graham Purvis or not?) Submarine‘s problems are exacerbated by Roberts’ aggressively deadpan turn as the protagonist, with the actor’s inability to transform Oliver into a wholeheartedly sympathetic figure preventing the viewer from working up any interest in his ongoing exploits. By the time it rolls into its sluggish, momentum-free third act, Submarine has established itself as a disappointingly uneven piece of work that doesn’t exactly bode well for Ayoade’s future endeavors behind the camera.

** out of ****

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