Submarine – Review


Directed by Richard Ayoade. Starring Sally HawkinsPaddy ConsidineNoah TaylorCraig RobertsYasmin PaigeGemma Chan.

Early review at recent festivals (Including Sundance and Toronto) have been quite positive on this small Welsh Independent film, which feels so much like a cross between Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze: in fact, it has indeed been compared to Rushmore, but also you can’t help seeing in Craig Roberts something from Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate.

I was less taken by it. On one hand it’s the sort of film I really want to like (Mainly because it’s been founded by the now gone British Council, but also because it’s always refreshing to see a little Indi trying to make it among those big Hollywood monsters), however I just couldn’t help feeling that not only I’ve seen it all before, but that behind the sporadic bittersweet and quirky humor, it all felt a bit too cold and calculated and in the end it was just very “gray”, just like that Welsh weather.

There are good individual isolated sharp moments, but the pace of film as a whole feels completely off. It is very self-indulgent (those moments with the 8mm footage for example, outstay their welcome) and you can’t help feeling a strange discrepancy between the  fast witty humor from the script and the actual staging of it. The film is patchy and uneven: from the very misjudged soundtrack (the score does not match the pictures nor the dialogue on the screen and the songs didn’t always work for me),  to the way it’s been filmed (very real at times but very stylized in other places). Finally, editing wise, it was too slow when it should have been faster (somewhere in the middle for example), and too fast when it should actually have been slower: the whole subplot with the parents at the end seems to resolve too quickly, for example. In fact the whole ending felt like it had been attached at the last moment and it’s too sweet and clean for this type of film.

The stuff around the kids is works a lot better than anything to do with the parents. The portrayal of the uncomfortable teenager feels quite accurate, honest and, despite the not-always-necessary voice over, somewhat poignant too. However beyond that, there were too many caricatures too, who contributed to the uneven feel I had at the end: Paddy Considine’s character was way too cartoony and the moments with his top speeches were clearly other examples something else which definitely could have been trimmed a bit.

On a silly side -note, I really didn’t like the titles at the front and the typeface of the captions in general… But that’s just a question of taste I guess.

On the whole “submarine” is an interesting yet flawed debut film but I’m looking forward to see what Ayoade does next.


Made in Dagenham – Review

Made in Dagenham (2010) 

Directed by Nigel Cole. Starring Sally HawkinsBob HoskinsAndrea RiseboroughRosamund Pike

I’ve finally managed to catch up with this film after hearing only good reviews from esteemed journalists and friends. So let’s say my expectation were fairly high (which is always pretty dangerous). On the whole I was a bit disappointed by how average it all was.

To be fair, the story itself is the best thing: how a group of female workers at  the Ford Dagenham car plant decided to go on strike protesting against sexual discrimination and asking for equal pay. It’s not just interesting and quite gripping but it’s also unbelievably true… Even more unbelievable to think that all this was just 40 years ago. Unfortunately, the story itself, as you can see, can be told in about a sentence or two. So after a while the film actually drags a bit and plays out pretty much as expected, by numbers.

It is a typical British film in a way: its pace, its gritty locations, its gray colours, even weather itself is very British. Nothing wrong with that, of course, expect this is all really superficial. The direction is pretty nonexistent and misses all the right moments. So much so that the supposedly funny scenes are without laughter and the moments where you should feel something (maybe even cry) are so cold and contrived that you’ll end up feeling absolutely nothing.

The script pretty basic and actually quite weak in places. There are scenes in which characters reveal their true motives to each other, in the lamest and laziest way, with dialogue that  rings so annoyingly  untrue, even though it’s all supposed to be a real story: for example the scene where Bob Hoskins tells, out of the blue, that the reason why he wants to help out is because his difficult childhood, is really contrived! And then later on in the film, there’s a very similar moment in which Rosamund Pike (who at least is good with the little she’s been given) tells Sally Hawkins how she feels. My God, do people really talk like that?

It’s funny how they managed to make a true story seem to un-real!

Even Miranda Richardson‘s depiction as  the Secretary of State is so over the top that you almost wonder whether she’s even realized she’s not on a Harry Potter set anymore.

Almost every single character in this film is a two-dimensional caricature, purely functional to the story: they can all be described with one adjective each. Most of the men act as the baddies, as if they were performing to 5 years old children, in the most ludicrous way. Was that really the only way to make the women appear stronger in the film?

The only one who attempts to do something a little bit more interesting is Richard Schiff, but unfortunately there isn’t enough of him to make him an interesting character anyway.

Once again, the Bob Hoskins‘s character (A union shop steward) is a one-dimensional one too. The moment where he quotes Carl Marx, is just one of the several contrived moments in the script, aiming for an easy punch-line, but actually contributing to make it even more un-real . Are we really supposed to believe that a character like him, really knows Carl Marx by heart?

Not to mention all the silly subplot which, on paper should really make the characters more real, but in practice end up being “so what?” moments. For example, what’s all the business with that woman with the sick husband (and the suicide too!!)? How is that meant to fit into the story? Are we meant to feel something for her? Because if that’s the case, I didn’t really feel anything about it.

And what about all the stuff with the bullied son at the beginning? Why is that subplot even there at all?

But the most awkward element of them all is Sally Hawkins‘s performance as Rita O’Grady. She’s supposed to be the strong woman who says “enough is enough” (in fact you can even see the real person in some real footage used during the end credits) and yet for most first half of the film she’s constantly acting as an incredibly shy  woman. Her mannerism is just wrong for the type of person she’s supposed to be. How she lowers her eyes every time she needs to talk so someone, or her stuttering and feeble tone of voice whilst she should actually be the strong one. wasn’t Rita O’Grady the woman who managed to rally all the others and convince them to join her in a strike for the right of equal pay. Well, in this film I get no sense at all that she could be a leader…

It’s a real pity, because a story like that really deserved something a lot better than this film.


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