7 Features In The Films Of Richard Ayoade

Richard Ayoade has only made two films, but already has his own artistic style. BFJ rewatched “Submarine” (2010) and “The Double” (2013) to notice what exactly the young director uses at right place and time in his two book adaptations for the screen. 

Characters and actors

Ayoade’s protagonists are always nice but shy young men with strange characteristics, or being more exact, strange strengths. It could be pupil Oliver who prefers loneliness and reading a dictionary, or quiet hardworking employee and heartsick lover Simon. Anyway each of them meets the challenges from outside: discord between parents, or a new and more successful employee assigning the main character to work for him.

Another aspect is actors. A good few of the Submarine cast (the Tate family as well as protagonist girlfriend Jordana) moved to The Double. Many directors bring back their favorite actors from film to film, and Ayoade is no exception. The reason might lie in some kind of responsibility (for example, Yasmin Paige – new talent) but likely it’s a good relationship, and the result that we watch in the screen loudly tells us that it’s a pleasure to work with him. Besides this fact, there’s something heart-stirring and touching in such recognition when familiar faces play new but no less charismatic characters.


One of the endearing moments of Ayoade movies is lack of binding to a specific time period. If the youths of Submarine looks like today’s hipsters (with their duffle coats,love of vinyl, tapes and Polaroid), then looking at adults in The Double, the contemporary feel flies away (the mother’s maxi skirts, Hannah’s headscarf or general lack of cell phones).

Moreover, this tendency is continued by environment. For example, characters don’t sit at the computers but read (remember a wonderful moment when Oliver advises his girlfriend to read “The Catcher in the Rye” and Nietzsche for spiritual bonding) or naughtily spend their time outside (the secret of a happy childhood). Movies on television sets remind us trash the seventies and eighties while cinemas offer good old films. Musical accompaniment also plays along the spirit of timelessness: the romantic ballads of Alex Turner (probably the best youth movie soundtrack of last years) and 1963 hit Kyu Sakamoto “Sukiyaki”.

In addition, what particularly captivating us is notes and their subsequent reading. It’s hardly to refute that message written by your own hand looks heartier, more involved and simply romantic, which seems very important for Ayoade.

Great Britain

To a greater or lesser extent both films are British (that is a sufficient advantage itself). And if in Submarine lots of details loudly shout about this, from landscape to sense of humor, then in The Double small details such as Cambridge Satchels remained unchanged. But we are glad of this at least.

Love and death

“What kind of young person am I?” – ask director’s protagonists, being at a crossroads and wanting to choose the right one. Oneofthose incentives that drive them becomes love. Timidity, caring attitude toward beloved ones (Jordana and Hannah) and some kind of admiration at a distance – that’s the way of great feeling experience by Ayoade’s main characters. Love holds Simon and Oliver in a surface and pushes them to actions adding the resolution.

The second theme of Ayoade movies is a topic of degeneration. Besides the fact that the death forces us to grow, it also is an end of certain stage. As Yeats said, “To be reborn you need to die first” and both protagonists use this idea. Oliver imagines his death, rebirth and subsequent moral strength. Simon devises to kill himself for to get back his personality and life as well as overcoming his bad side.

Jesse Eisenberg as Simon in The Double, 2013


Despite the fact that the popularity of books has been steadily declining in the modern world, Ayoade focuses on them. First he filmed a youth novel in which the protagonist is not averse to spend time reading dictionary and also familiar with the works of Shakespeare and Salinger, and then he not only successfully but also originally worked on Dostoevsky’s novel, and puts into the mouth of his character words about Pinocchio. This approach deserves only respect.

Color palette

The colour seems to be the separate element of director’s works. Dramatic comedy or thriller, Ayoade somehow manages to leave something unchanged: cold shades (for the London weather) and blue color (idealism, fortitude and dreams). The Double skilfully uses “Dostoevsky’s yellow” (the color of psychological destruction, instability); while in Submarine youthful rebellious spirit is embodied by the Jordana’s red coat and romance by the purple sunset.

Hannah and Simon. The Double, 2013

Laconic shots and a bit of absurdity

Ayoade’s filming style is quite concise – there is no place for disorder. He likes to shoot close-up and employ the use of stills (hello to Wes Anderson); he toys with hyperbole and allegories while remaining ironic.

In addition to semi-abandoned places, baths amidst wasteland, Simon’s meagre furniture or an empty subway car, there is a place for some odd in the shot, whether it’s an old computer at work or skeleton in the nursery. In addition, the characters themselves are a bit weird; their monologues – a wonderful example of the unordinary people, or passion for watching other people through all kinds of telescopes and binoculars. But despite all this, Ayoade’s characters (and movies in general) are much closer the spectator rather than one-sided heroes of most modern action films. But that’s why we love Richard, don’t we?

Oliver Tate. Submarine, 2010

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1 Comment

  • Also remember how he depicts the characters thoughts when reading a note or letter in the movie from someone? Showing a black landscape and the character who wrote it reading it. Not sure if that is original yet I suppose it’s worth mentioning since he does do it in both feature films.

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