Film Review: The Double

The Double

Richard Ayoade’s The Double is compelling viewing. After his critically applauded debut Submarine, Ayoade showcases another string to his bow.

Simon is a timid young man, overlooked at work and invisible to the woman he adores. Simon is confounded by the arrival of a new colleague at work. James is physically identical to Simon, yet his exact opposite in terms of personality…

For his second feature, Richard Ayoade has tackled an adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella. The Double offers an interesting plot, and a narrative imbued with humour and tension.

Ayoade has created a dystopian world in The Double. The film owes a deby to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. This is particularly true of its satirising of bureaucracy. The environment in The Double is one of the past. Certain elements point to a 1980s setting, whilst other aspects indicate a decade or two before this. Notwithstanding, the world has a very distinctive look and feel.

The Double generates frequent laughs, thanks in part to Simon’s deadpan countenance and the Kafkaesque occurrences. Yet it is also successful in generating tension. It is not difficult to identify with Simon, a protagonist increasingly losing control as the film progresses.

Production design in The Double is fantastic. The sets and costumes create a memorable look for the film. Cinematography is also a highlight. The soundtrack is unusual, but in keeping with the bizarre world Simon inhabits.

Jesse Eisenberg is convincing as both Simon and James. The characters play to his dual strengths, allowing him to play both cocky and insecure. Mia Wasikowska is also great as Hannah.

The Double is a finely executed film. Highly recommended viewing.

The Double is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: Submarine

Richard Ayoade’s Submarine is a remarkably well-executed debut. A coming-of-age comedy drama, the film has more depth than many other teen movies that deal with similar issues.

Teenage schoolboy Oliver Tate is navigating the labyrinth of adolescence. His two main preoccupations are getting a girlfriend and ensuring his parents stay together following their marital woes…

Submarine boasts great writing from Ayoade. The film is frequently humorous, and at times poignant. Submarine has been carefully crafted; the characters are well thought out and situations are both relatable and quirky.

Part of the film’s success can be attributed to the fact that the characters are easy to empathise with. Protagonist Oliver is not the typical teenage lead. This immediately makes Submarine more interesting, distinguishing it from other films with a similar theme. Oliver has the same concerns as many teenage boys. Yet his approach to these concerns is markedly different. The film opens with Oliver hypothesising about the affect his premature death would have. This includes a dream-like sequence which depicts the whole school in mourning. The set piece is bizarre, but also endearing. Oliver’s grandiose approach is amusing, but this does not detract from identifying with the teenager. It is easy to see why the issues in Oliver’s life are so critical to him.

The characters in Submarine retain a sense of believability because they are flawed. None of the characters are perfect, yet it is easier to empathise with some over the others. In keeping with these naturalistic portrayals, there are no good or bad characters, per se. Even Graham, who is envisioned as the enemy by Oliver, is not depicted as being entirely bad. Graham, like the rest of the characters, is a shade of grey.

Submarine features a number of references to film. Some of these nod to other movies, while others are more self-reflexive. At one point Oliver expresses a wish to be followed by a documentary film team, and the camera obeys his direction. While this is amusing, it also indicates an awareness of the cinematic process.

Performances are great in Submarine. Craig Roberts really embodies the character of Oliver, while Paddy Considine is wonderfully ludicrous as Graham. It is Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor who really stand out as Jill and Lloyd, however. Their deadpan performances inject a considerable amount of humour into the film.

Set as a three-chapter piece, the film does lose its way a little in the second part but recovers quickly. Overall, Submarine is a memorable tale.