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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Whilst we’re probably not the only ones hoping for a quieter, more uneventful seven days, that doesn’t mean we won’t want to be out and about. This week’s highlights include a diverse range of free events, exhibitions, and film screenings, and Port Street Beer House celebrating the work of Manchester’s own Marble Brewery.

Monday 15th August to Sunday 21st August

Ernest Rutherford: Father of Nuclear Physics at the Museum of Science and Industry

Manchester has a long and storied history of being at the forefront of scientific and technological revolutions. This free entry exhibition celebrates Ernest Rutherford, whose work established the nuclear structure of the atom and the nature of radioactive decay, earning him global recognition in the process.

Monday 15th August to Saturday 20th August

Leo Fitzmaurice: Post Match at the Cube Gallery

With the football season now well and truly underway, this free entry exhibition is particularly timely. Over the course of ten years, Fitzmaurice has crafted around 800 miniature football kits using only discarded cigarette packets; the result is a vibrant, thought-provoking journey through the histories of two industries with particularly tarnished images.

Tuesday 16th August to Sunday 21st August

Manchester Week at Port Street Beer House

Port Street’s Manchester Week was planned in advance of last week, but given the events which unfolded, the timing of it couldn’t be much better. It’s largely being held as a tribute to Colin Stronge, the brewery production manager at the superlative Marble Brewery, with several other fantastic local brewers also represented.

Wednesday 17th August

Eyebrow Cinema at An Outlet

The free entry world and independent film club is screening Precious on Wednesday, and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well worth checking out; it’s not quite as strong as some critics made it out to be, but it’s still a compelling piece of cinema.

Friday 20th August to Sunday 22nd August

Platform 4 Festival at Piccadilly Gardens, St Ann’s Square, and Castlefield Arena

A free event that spans across the city, incorporating aerial and circus shows, music, dance, and street theatre, Platform 4 Festival sounds both ambitious and unique. The acrobatics of the Spanish Atempo Circus at Castlefield Arena should be a particular highlight.

Friday 20th August

Hey! After Hours at Whitworth Art Gallery

Conceived as a response to current Whitworth Art Gallery exhibition Projections: Works From The Artangel Collection, Hey! After Hours promises an evening of highly cultured music, including the Prism Quartet performing Philip Glass, and a set from Liz Green ahead of the long-awaited release of her debut album.

Saturday 21st August to Sunday 22nd August

A Game of Consequence at Piccadilly Gardens

The Contact Young Actors Company bring an old-fasjoined medicine show to Piccadilly Gardens free of charge; however, as the name of the performance suggests, every choice has its consequence. It’s directed by Cheryl Martin, who has already made a number of lauded contributions to the Manchester theatre scene.

Saturday 21st August

Chad VanGaalen at the Deaf Institute

Diaper Island is one of the finest albums released this year, a definite leap forward from a guy who has been making great music under the radar for what seems like forever. The fact that support comes from New Hips (three-quarters of the sadly missed Deaf to Van Gogh’s Ear) is the sort of added bonus that means this is one we’re very much looking forward to.

The basement safe of Incognito Gallery on Stevenson Square seemed an uncomfortably small space in which to view the latest artwork of the troubled yet endearing artist, Daniel Johnston. Especially since the opening of this exhibition, which runs until the 7th October, had drawn crowds ranging from established fans to hairspray-addicted hipsters to curious passers by.

However, Story of an Artist, with its characteristically naive, felt tip, comicbook aesthetic, transports you into the mind of a man plagued by mental disquiet, and seems an apt location in which to view the private thoughts and exuberantly disturbed illustrations of this much loved man.

The work on show comprises a collection of hand-drawn posters tacked to cork boards around the 10ft by 10ft metal container. Untangling the colorful, character-driven imagery reveals concern over the contradictions of life in a world driven by commercialism and war, with a longing for the innocence, liberalism, and romance of a bygone era.

We might not have braved the launch of the exhibition, and the large crowd it was sure to attract, had it not been for the suggestion that the man himself would play a short set. Upon arrival, we were told that it would be happening at around seven; however, seven came and went with no sign of him.

The minutes flew by without further word, and as we stood outside to escape the heat of the packed gallery we watched as the organisers became increasingly harried. Once eight o’clock rolled by, it seemed doubtful that he’d be turning up. We had all but given up when he finally appeared, threaded his way through the maze of people both outside and indoors, picked up the guitar that had been provided for him, and played a trio of songs for an audience who were clearly delighted to have been there.

He seemed just a touch uncomfortable during the first song, but settled into proceedings; even so, it was more of an “I was there” moment than a revelatory performance. For us, the artwork on display was the real highlight of the evening, and the short set was more of a warmup for his Sound Control appearance the following day.

Comicbook artist Jack Kirby heavily influences Johnston’s  work, along with The Beatles, for whom Johnston has a longtime reverence – even going so far as to nickname his brother Sergeant Pepper, on account of his mustache.

Western politics appeared to be commented upon in one image, which features a disillusioned Captain America overlooking the signing of a Bill of Rot by two ducks dressed in SS-like uniforms, while a blank faced, buxom woman looks on and a pink cat rejoices at his secret Nazi plans. In this image, Captain America concludes that seeing as how it appears that no-one can be bothered to resist anymore, and no-one seems to care, he might as well read a “girly magazine.”

In other pieces, characters display their allegiance to fascism and peace in similar ways, against backgrounds of disembodied red and yellow heads, some crying, and often accompanied by speech bubbles. The Blue Meanies of Yellow Submarine popped up again and again, often in conjunction with a green man, who reappeared in a variety of states, always looking muscular but often with missing limbs.

Drawing definite conclusions from Johnston’s art seems pointless – these pieces can be taken as social commentary, as a subversion of the naive aesthetic, or simply as the musings that enter into his mind, for which he finds catharsis upon a blank page. Whichever way you choose to interpret the work, it certainly plants ideas that the mind masticates over for some time afterwards.

A regular series discussing albums unearthed in Vinyl Exchange, Manchester’s legendary second hand music store.

Fans of The Clash may want to look away now, because I’m about to say something you may well not agree with:

Sandinista! is the band’s best album.

Let me qualify that. Sandinista! is the album on which The Clash’s wonderful spirit of experimentation comes to its most perfect fruition, the album on which the disparate influences that informed the band’s music from the very start are best realised. Don’t believe me? Then let us consider their oeuvre in more detail.

The Clash is an essential punk record, one of the key drivers behind a pivotal music scene. It boasts a fair few fantastic songs, but the UK version also has its share of skippable tracks, and standout moment “Police And Thieves” is a cover. The US version, which featured the likes of “White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)” and “Complete Control,” was essentially a compilation album, and thus doesn’t enter into the discussion.

Give ‘Em Enough Rope has more heart (see “Stay Free”), but nothing matches the incredible opening track “Safe European Home,” and you’d be hard pressed to describe it as a great album.

London Calling is undeniably superb. But the back half doesn’t quite match up to the front half. Upon release, “Guns Of Brixton” ended the first LP; before that, the listener was treated to “Spanish Bombs,” “Lost In The Supermarket,” “Clampdown,” the title track, and plenty more besides. On the second LP, “Death Or Glory” and “I’m Not Down” are almost-but-not-quite classics (and also kinda similar to one another), and whilst “The Card Cheat” and “Train In Vain” are excellent, not everything matches those high standards.

Combat Rock is in many ways a fantastic record. “Rock The Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” are a hell of a lot of fun, and “Straight To Hell” is quite possibly their greatest ever song. But compared to the two albums that preceded it, it remains a minor classic.

And finally, aside from “This Is England,” Cut The Crap is staggeringly awful.

Which leads us back to where we started. Whereas the album that preceded it was an essential document of seventies England, Sandinista! is American through and through, in terms of sound, themes, and the atmosphere it evokes. It opens with “The Magnificent Seven,” which along with side three cut “Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)” represents the first time a (mainstream) white rock band tried their hand at rap. The track also puts down a marker for what’s to follow: an exhilarating journey through musical history, with just about every genre represented. Reggae, dub, jazz, pop, gospel, and disco all inform the record, which plays like one of the greatest mixtapes ever compiled.

One of the album’s greatest strengths lies in just how evocative it is. The Apocalypse Now tribute “Charlie Don’t Surf” and another anti-war statement, “The Call Up,” call to mind battlefields past, present, and future; “Lets Go Crazy” is the sound of the carnival, and suggests that at least one member of the group was a fan of tropicalia; and “Broadway” is a magnificent piece of jazz-piano balladry that transports the listener to a seedy dive bar they’ve never even visited.

A cover of Eddy Grant’s “Police On My Back” is the perfect companion to the band’s version of “I Fought The Law,” all powerful guitars and desperate vocals, a short sharp shock of a song, with a simple hook and endless replay value. “Something About England” is a beautiful ode to the titular nation, proof that although their outlook had become more global, they were still in touch with their homeland. And “Somebody Got Murdered” is a forgotten classic, highlighting just how great The Clash were at unfolding compelling narratives.

Sandinista! was largely derided upon its release, but the passage of time makes it clear that The Clash were simply a long, long way ahead of the curve. Not every moment of the 145 minute running time is golden, but it’s also never dull; even the more unsuccessful songs are interesting at the very least. This was the sound of the best band in the world showing off the size of their ambition and the breadth of their musical knowledge, putting their peers to shame in the process. An absolutely essential album.

There’s genuine optimism surrounding the Manchester music scene at the moment, and whilst this kind of buzz tends to build up every few years or so, this time it feels different.

After all, this isn’t The Courteeners breaking big with their brand of lowest common denominator British indie rock, inspiring drunken students to dance along to “Not Nineteen Forever” in 5th Avenue without any sense of irony as Liam Fray tells us to like it or lump it in his best Gallagher voice; this is WU LYF scoring critical acclaim across the world. Love them or hate them, they’ve certainly been instrumental in terms of pushing things forward, doing things a little differently, and getting people to pay attention.

As have Manchester Scenewipe. An ambitious operation from the start, they’ve taken the unique stance of focusing on the best music that Manchester has to offer without pretending that every band who heralds from the city is amazing. They understand that the American influence has become increasingly important, rather than yearning for the days of Factory and Oasis (people really need to learn to let go).

Manchester Scenewipe’s free nights at Fuel Cafe Bar serve as an opportunity to hear where they’re coming from, and having listened to the three acts lined up for their Friday 5th August show in the days before, the word that most readily sprang to mind was “Americana.” T.G. Elias has a touch of Devendra Banhart, a touch of The Tallest Man On Earth about him, but adheres to a more traditional interpretation of blues-folk than either. It’s certainly highly effective, ensuring that Elias avoids any easy pigeonholing, and his impressive stage presence and wonderfully arranged music keeps the crowd in rapt attention.

Next up was Jo Rose (pictured below). Calling to mind the more reflective moments of Whiskeytown’s oeuvre, and evoking a nostalgia it’s impossible to precisely place, the delicacy and craft of the ex-Fear Of Music frontman’s new music is on display throughout. Heart-on-sleeve-captivating in the best possible way, his songs never feel overwrought, just carefully considered and wonderfully executed. The guitar-and-vocals-singer-songwriter approach can be a hard sell these days, given the volume of practitioners, but Rose is a cut above the rest, and he earns rapturous applause when he finishes.

Of course, the upstairs of Fuel (small, dark, no stage) has always been perfectly suited to the lone musician, and the intimacy that entails. In our experience, full bands have had a harder time of owning the space in the way that live music demands of its proponents.

Headliners Walton Hesse (pictured first) suffered no such problems, however, creating a charged atmosphere with their brand of alt-country psych. This was due to two factors: 1) the folks organising the gig obviously put time, effort, and plenty of thought into getting the sound spot on; and 2) the band are very, very good.

The first seconds of their opening song – a lovely little number which sounded like The Besnard Lakes slowed down to half-speed – quickly enticed us back inside from our cigarette break, but was also something of a misnomer, because once they got started, the band were full of energy. Pitched somewhere between Sebadoh and Wilco, we quickly felt like we were experiencing something special. Blessed with an ear for a tune, perfectly judged keys lend proceedings a touch of The Hold Steady barroom bounce, and the end of their set seems to come all too soon.

Of course, that’s simply testament to how much both band and audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. Walton Hesse capped off a fantastic night, one which serves to highlight the breadth of talent Manchester is blessed with at the moment, in that three acts we hadn’t heard of just over a week ago are now deservedly eliciting comparisons to alt-rock legends from us. It’s more than that, though: they’ve taken their influences and created something positive, not derivative. Which is why we now rate all three so highly.

From sci-fi to gay cinema to a number of interesting art exhibitions, the Manchester cultural calendar is certainly diverse this week. The triple header of Daniel Johnston-themed events over Thursday and Friday are worth checking out, and we also have high hopes that the Cornerhouse screening of Break My Fall will be an introduction to an exciting new cinematic talent.

Monday 8th August to Saturday 13th August

Beyond Their Shells at Contact Theatre

Eggs Collective are a group of Manchester-based female performance artists working in partnership with Contact Theatre to produce challenging, original work. In this Eggshibition (their pun, not ours), Roshana Rubin-Mayhew photographs the individuals behind the collective, in a series of portraits that explore the concept of self-identity.

Zion Young Creators Exhibition at Zion Arts Centre

The Zion Arts Centre is one of the best things about Hulme. It plays host to a variety of interesting events, ranging from dance classes to animation workshops, and much more besides. Zion’s own Young Curators have developed an exhibition which reflects the artistic perspectives of young people; any institution encouraging today’s youth to engage with art should be applauded.

Monday 8th August

Washed Out at the Deaf Institute

Currently one of THE big things in music, don’t let the hype deter you too much (of course, don’t buy into it too much either). The band have followed a strong EP with a debut album that’s a decent soundtrack to this washed out summer. It should be interesting to find out how their music translates to a live stage.

Tuesday 9th August

Break My Fall at the Cornerhouse

POUT on Tour is being launched to coincide with Manchester Pride 2011, with Break My Fall opening proceedings. The debut film from emerging talent Kanchi Wichmann tells the story of two lesbians, Liza and Sally, whose hedonistic lifestyle quickly starts to get away from them. Followed by a post-screening Q&A session.

Wednesday 10th August

Givers at the Night & Day

Having garnered a bit of attention from Pitchfork and the like, Givers are now touring their debut album, In Light. Catchy in a post-Vampire Weekend sort of way, should be a lot of fun live.

Thursday 11th August to Friday 12th August

OpenMind Festival at An Outlet

An ambitious celebration of independent artists, OpenMind Festival will feature poetry readings, live music, comedy, and most intriguingly, a screening of their sci-fi theatre piece Infinite Perspectives

Thursday 11th August

Daniel Johnston: Story of an Artist at Incognito Gallery

This preview evening launches Manchester’s first ever Daniel Johnston art exhibition; it also features a performance by the man himself, and an opportunity to purchase his work. We’re unbelievably excited about this.

Some Things Last a Long Time: A Tribute to Daniel Johnston at the Night & Day

After Incognito Gallery kicks out at eight, the Night & Day is keeping the Daniel Johnston fires burning, with a host of Manchester bands covering songs from the great man’s extensive back catalogue. With new Onward, Manchester faves Walton Hesse part of the bill, it may well be the perfect prelude to Friday night…

Friday 12th August

Daniel Johnston at Sound Control

…when Daniel Johnston will be performing his own songs. Initially scheduled to take place at Manchester Cathedral, the change of venue shouldn’t derail the evening too much; fans of his music will be captivated by his very presence on stage, before he even plays a note.

Saturday 13th August

Shonen Knife at the Deaf Institute

The legendary all-female Japanese pop punk trio have been kicking around for a staggering , and yet still have more creativity in their little fingers than the vast majority of their peers.

As I was sitting at a picnic table in Picadilly Gardens watching a harassed mother and her sulky teenage daughter lock horns over the contentious issue of back to school shoes, it dawned on me what the point of the Manchester Picnic and, by extension, the self-proclaimed “city centre management company” City Co really was.

The event, which lasted from Friday to Sunday, saw food purveyors from across Manchester gather to flog their delicious wares to parents and shoppers, whilst activities in the form of science demonstrations, Printworks DJ sets, and cutesy pirouetting teddy bears kept children and teenagers entertained.

Behind a carefully constructed kitsch facade, accompanied by a well-executed marketing campaign and some humanising website copy, City Co have clearly worked hard to create an event that gives people a reason to come to Manchester and spend their money.

This isn’t a bad thing. People need to spend in order to ensure that everything positive that has been achieved in terms of making Manchester the UK’s real second city is not for naught, now that the country’s economy is well and truly in decline.

City Co seems to be a force for good; Manchester needs people to visit, and City Co provides a platform for businesses and the council to work together to make this happen. And some of their initiatives are really very clever, such as promoting Manchester as a leading photographic destination. This helps gain the city publicity amongst art and media types, after which promotion continues at no cost, courtesy of the images taken by amateurs helping to create strong word of mouth.

The motives for other initiatives are a little more opaque, however. Perhaps I’m being dense or have not quite thought it through, but I cannot see why an organisation that is essentially a PR machine needs to provide a business crime reduction service; surely that is the job of the police, and any information concerning criminality in the city shouldn’t be restricted to “members only.”

Anyway, I digress. Back to the picnic.

Pictured above is an Aumbry’s Bury Black Pudding Scotch Egg served in a sleek black box with homemade ketchup. I salivated as the chief deep fried this golden-crumbed globe of oozing pudding with a quails egg tucked up inside. It’s easy to see why they are described as “legendary” in Prestwich, where Aumbry is based.

Next up was a City Cafe Venison Sausage barm, slathered in Jagermeister Jam with a token bit of salad. Chunky, meaty, and gamey but not overbearingly so, all-in-all it was surprisingly subtle. The Jagermeister Jam was really more of a sauce, but it added a sweet balance and some sharper end notes to the earthy tones of the meat.

The banoffee cupcake pictured next to it is from Dessert Harvey Nichols. Personally, I’m not a massive cupcake fan. The icing is generally overbearing, and they have become something of a twee affectation in recent years. I like homemade ones; it’s mainly the ones that appear in large boxes  as corporate gifts or as an alternative to a wedding cake that I have a problem with.

As for the one above, it was extremely sickly, and might have been more successful had it been either just toffee or just banana. Lurking within the suspiciously light crumb was a centre of flavourless sweet brown gunk standing in for caramel, and adorning the top was a sugary banana icing with, inexplicably, a small chocolate digestive hidden underneath.

That said, Harvey Nichols were kind enough to give us a discount leaflet for their restaurant, and I reckon we’ll make our way over at some point. And we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more events like this in the future.

The Manchester Picnic certainly worked as an exercise in getting us to spend time and money in the city centre. After we had eaten, we went for a wander around the shops, and I bought some fairy lights from Habitat, which is going out of business.

The guy on the till said he will be given just one week’s notice before him and all of the other staff find themselves out of a job; they aren’t yet sure when this will happen, though. This brings home the importance of events like the Manchester Picnic in terms of drumming up city centre trade.

An ongoing series documenting our search for the best beers available in Manchester.

Nipping into the Briton’s Protection for a quick couple a week or so ago, we were confronted with an unusually rawkus bar area, which we were keen to escape for the comfort of the snug. Quickly perusing the on tap selection, the name Beartown caught our eye, so we ordered two pints, bade a hasty retreat, sat ourselves down, and enjoyed our drinks.

Established in 1994, Beartown is perhaps best described as a gateway brewery on the road to more complex offerings. It produces cut-above-average beers that aren’t the most distinctive in the world, with a bottled range that is interesting enough to provide the seasoned drinker with a pleasant night in.

Kodiak Gold in particular fits that mould. It lacks punch, but that shouldn’t always be seen as a criticism, as the mellow end of the spectrum can be fantastic when done right. Very wheaty and ever-so-slightly sweet, it slips down easily enough, and is not as bitter as the label suggests, with notes of citrus and hops shining through.

Bruin’s Ruin also has a certain sweetness to it, due to the hint of toffee that permeates the drink. Copper coloured with a woody aroma, the rich body adds character to what is a tasty enough bitter. Bearskinful, on the other hand, is an absolute treat; whilst trace amounts of honey were detectable in the previous two brews, here it is very much to the fore. Light enough to be drank as a session beer (something which the name cheekily alludes to), and moreish enough that you’ll be happy doing exactly that.

To finish, we chose a Polar Eclipse, which is best described as a beginner’s stout. What that entails is a smooth, mild beverage, with little to distinguish it in terms of flavour. If you haven’t yet explored stouts at any great length, then Polar Eclipse is probably as good a place as any to start.

Overall, these four beers weren’t quite as complex as those we’d usually plump for, but there is still plenty to recommend about them. In particular, Bearskinful is worth seeking out, and as the brewery seems to be gaining ground in both pubs and supermarkets, you may not have to look too hard to find it.

One of the highlights of going out in Manchester is spotting of some of the casualties. People who, like Icarus, have flown just a little too close to the sun. The guy pictured above was spotted in Indigo, Withington at half eleven on Friday. His friends have decided to use him as an arm rest. Take note kids: pace yourself.

This guy was spotted at just gone ten on Saturday opposite Christie Hospital on Palentine Road. He woke up shortly afterwards, just in time to catch the bus through to East Didsbury.

If you’ve got any humorous photographs of similar fails you’d like to share, send them over to onwardmanchester@gmail.com.

Above: The spiced-to-perfection Plantain and the sadly absent Jerk Chicken.


Since his Dragons’ Den appearance, Levi Roots has planted Caribbean food firmly in the national consciousness, and despite his range of sauces, pre-packaged meals, and Domino’s pizzas being a touch too sweet and short on spice for my palate, the increased number of establishments now serving this cuisine is certainly a fantastic upside to his success.

Mind you, Caribbean food has long been to Hulme what Indian food is to Rusholme. Once you have had a taste of sizzling jerk chicken breast nestled atop a pile of coconut and scotch-bonnet infused rice and peas, you may find that your long-standing affection for fire-engine tandooris begins to wane.

There are several fantastic places in Hulme you can visit for your African-Caribbean fix. Yaba, located on Hulme High Street, is a solid neighborhood restaurant, with a menu largely comprising warm, comforting, slow-cooked stews.

There are certain things you expect from a neighborhood restaurant: homeliness, friendly service, reasonable prices and, most importantly, good, honest, home-cooked food. Yaba definitely delivers on these fronts.

This wasn’t my first visit to the restaurant; given that it is so close to my apartment, and that jerk chicken with rice and peas is my go-to food when I am in need of comfort (read: slightly worse for wear having had too much to drink the night before), it’s no surprise that I’ve popped in a couple of times before.

This time I was in for a slight disappointment, as I didn’t get my chicken fix, because the grills were apparently broken. No matter, though, for the Curried Goat was pretty delicious – chunks of melting meat in a mean and spicy sauce, served with a pile of rice, vegetables, and a mini-dumpling for mopping up the stray dregs at the end.

Hangover hunger pangs being what they are, I could’ve eaten a touch more than the portion I was provided with and, greedy though we may be, that seemed to be Kristian’s main complaint too (though fear not, we also consumed a plate of spiced fried plantain for the price of £3, and both of us agreed that it was wonderful).

He plumped for the stewed oxtail; rich on-the-bone flesh in a thick gravy, made all the richer for the hours that it had spent being slowly infused with succulent bone juices. The spices add provocation to the familiarly English taste of stewed meat - kind of like your grandmother’s casserole with a bouquet garni scoured south of the equator. Comforting yet exotic. Again, it came with the familiar rice and peas (although you’re also free to choose a more carb-based options, such as chips, if you fancy), vegetables, and the same cute little dumpling. Both mains came in at around £8 each.

So two great mains and two happy customers. Negatives? Well the vegetables were overcooked, no question about it. And they don’t serve alcohol, although they do offer a selection of homemade drinks, including a refreshing ginger beer that packed enough punch to shake away my remaining cobwebs. You can bring your own booze, if you like, but you will be charged £7 for corkage/provision of glasses.

If you would like to sample the whole menu there is an all-you-can-eat buffet on Fridays and Sundays. For more information please see the Yaba facebook page.


We caught Submarine for the first time back in April, when it was in the midst of its epic run at the Cornerhouse (due to popular demand, it screened for what felt like months). In many ways it was the ideal Friday night film – it made us laugh a lot, and it was very, very sweet. We came away with an extremely positive impression of it. Released on DVD this week, we sat down to it for a second time at a friend’s inaugural film club event, and enjoyed it all over again. That said, amongst the seemingly universal praise, few seem to have picked upon its faults. Which is why we’ve created this list of them: to add to the critical debate, and bring a little bit of perspective to the party. If you haven’t seen it yet, be warned that the following contain spoilers.

1. It has nothing new to say about adolescence.
Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that Submarine nails its depiction of high school, and Oliver Tate is a thoroughly convincing adolescent creation (although it is also worth pointing out that the object of his affections, Jordana Bevan, is little more than a cipher). Still, the film quickly feels familiar, in terms of the events that unfold and the way characters react to them. At no point does it bring anything new or unique to the table, something which great films always manage to do.

2. It is completely devoid of subtext.
To wit: every single thought and feeling that crosses Oliver’s mind is expressed, usually in quite a bit of detail. Indeed, the narration he provides throughout the film is the surest sign that Submarine was adapted from a novel. However, what works perfectly on the page doesn’t always translate well to the screen, and the film would’ve benefited from adhering a little closer to the principle of “show, don’t tell.”

3. Its ending is unearned.
For the first hour of Submarine, it really is hard to find fault. From the brilliantly executed opening scene of Oliver imagining, with glorious hyperbole, the reaction to his own death, it is consistently laugh out loud funny for a solid sixty minutes, and charming without being too cutesy. However, for the last half an hour it wants us to take its characters and their problems much more seriously. Which is fine, but given that we’ve spent so long viewing the Oliver-Jordana coupling as fodder for humour, the shift in tone is somewhat jarring. And when the ending ties everything up neatly, it feels either a) rushed or b) just wrong plain: during the final third of the film, two relationships are dealt blows that, in a majority of cases, would probably prove fatal, yet both end up stronger than they were to begin with. Much of Submarine feels genuine and honest, but the conclusion certainly doesn’t. In this case, an extra 10 minutes may well have made all the difference.

4. One of its key characters is nothing more than a punchline.
Yes, new age guru Graham is hilarious, and very ably played by Paddy Considine. But he’s funny in a guilty pleasure sort of way, like leaving an episode of Little Britain on and finding yourself laughing at it, before immediately feeling embarrassed for having done so. Graham is one of the film’s most important dramatic devices, and yet he’s not a character, he’s a caricature. He’s not recognisably human, and that has to be considered a failing.

All that being said, in our eyes it’s definitely a four star film. So if you haven’t seen it but you’ve read this list anyway, don’t be too dissuaded: we still heartily recommend that you watch it.

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