In 1986 in Swansea, unpopular Oliver Tate (played by Craig Roberts) is a 15-year-old who is infatuated with classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige). When Jordana invites Oliver to meet secretly after school, she takes pictures of them kissing, hoping to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. He reacts by putting Oliver in a headlock and punching him at school whilst they are surrounded by other pupils. Jordana soon becomes his girlfriend and after a couple of weeks they have sex in his bedroom whilst his parents are out.
At home, Oliver becomes concerned about his parents. His father, Lloyd (Noah Taylor), is depressed. New-age guru Graham (Paddy Considine), an ex-boyfriend of his mother, Jill (Sally Hawkins), has moved in next door, and his flirtations rouse Oliver's suspicions.
Oliver's relationship with Jordana grows, but he learns that her mother has a potentially fatal brain tumour. At an early Christmas dinner at Jordana's house, he witnesses her father break down. Unsettled, he decides that the Jordana he loves is at risk because the emotional events surrounding her will "make her gooey [sentimental] in the middle". He cuts off contact with her.
Thinking that his mother and Graham are having an affair, Oliver attempts to repair his parents' relationship. While searching for his mother on the beach, he sees Jordana with another boy. Heartbroken he heads home; but, on the way, he sees his mother with Graham and assumes the worst. Enraged, he breaks into Graham's house, gets drunk, and commits minor acts of vandalism. When Graham comes home, he finds Oliver but returns him home with minimal fuss. The next morning, Oliver awakes to see that both his parents aren't angry with him and are reconciling.
Oliver remains distraught about losing Jordana; he is downhearted for weeks, until he sees her on the beach. Running towards her, he explains his actions and learns that Jordana has either broken up with her new boyfriend or never had one. Together, they walk several inches deep into the sea, smiling.Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate
Yasmin Paige as Jordana Bevan
Sally Hawkins as Jill Tate
Noah Taylor as Lloyd Tate
Paddy Considine as Graham Purvis
Gemma Chan as Kim-Lin
Melanie Walters as Jude Bevan
Steffan Rhodri as Mr. Davey
Ben Stiller as Soap Opera Star (Uncredited)
The film was produced by Warp Films and Film4 Productions. Principal photography began on 26 October 2009 and filming finished in December 2009. Andrew Hewitt composed the score and musician Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys contributed six songs.
Around 100 actors submitted video auditions for the roles of Oliver, Jordana, and Chips. Michael Sheen and X Factor contestant Lucie Jones were originally cast in the film but dropped out due to other commitments.
The film premiered at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010. Following a generally positive reception it was picked up by The Weinstein Company for a North American release. The film also played at the 54th London Film Festival in October 2010 and was played out of competition at the 27th Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. It was also screened along with 400 other films at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival the next month.
Submarine received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 86% based on reviews from 146 critics, with the consensus: "Funny, stylish, and ringing with adolescent truth, Submarine marks Richard Ayoade as a talent to watch." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 76 based on 37 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3/4 stars saying "Submarine isn't an insipid teen sex comedy. It flaunts some stylistic devices, such as titles and sections and self-aware narration, but it doesn't try too hard to be desperately clever. It's a self-confident work for the first-time director, Richard Ayoade, whose purpose I think is to capture that delicate moment in some adolescent lives when idealism and trust lead to tentative experiments. Because Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige are enormously likable in their roles, they win our sympathy and make us realize that too many movies about younger teenagers are filtered through the sensibility of more weathered minds."
The film grossed $467,602 in the USA, plus $3,407,282 outside the USA, for a combined gross of $3,874,884.
Original songs were written and performed by Alex Turner, the frontman of Arctic Monkeys. The soundtrack charted at 35 in the UK Album Chart.
The original score was composed by Andrew Hewitt, long-time collaborator of Ayoade, recorded at Air Studios with The Composers Ensemble orchestra.