Submarine (2011)

British films fall into three categories:

  1. The cock-er-knee gangster movie where lots of people shout and point and try to get out of the game but ultimately get shot or suffer a chain of events that let them get away scot-free.
  2. Kitchen sink dramas aka it ain’t half grim up North. Eee by by gum, Deidre’s gone and got pregnant in t’mines. All she’s got to feed t’ baby is a whippet. Then there’s the problem that she’s been laid off work and she’s a crack whore. Everyone says c*nt.
  3. Richard Curtis

Submarine doesn’t really settle into any one those camps. Despite being set in Wales, no one gets laid off and have to become a stripper and even though its in the 80s, no one gets that new illness AIDS.

Craig Roberts plays Oliver Tate; a precocious 16 year old who somewhat enjoys the fact that no one ‘gets him’. In between deciding what affectation would best suit him (he went through a crazy hat phase recently), he fantasises about dying and being resurrected like Jesus and how that will impress the schools pyromaniac, Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige).

After finally hooking up with Jordana, he finds that the maturity he craves comes to bite him threefold, when he discovers his parents are on the brink of divorce and Jordana’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer. Believing he can resolve everything, Oliver sets out on a quest to bring everything to what he perceives to the correct conclusion. To tackle his parents break up and the possibility that his mother is going to shag their psychic next door neighbour (Paddy Considine), he writes love notes to her signed ‘your husband’ and buys his father new aftershave. With Jordana, he believes the emotions she will go through whilst her mother suffers will cause her to go ‘gooey’ and, as such, lose the dangerous edge that he’s fallen in love. So, he puts into action seveal plans including poisoning her dog so she’ll become accustomed to grief and even leaving her to suffer alone in the hopes that it will toughen her up.

Whilst he sounds like a complete shit, Roberts plays Oliver with a faux-maturity which will have you finding him naive and sad, rather than just a pain in the arse. He’s a child pretending to be a grown up, whilst his parents are grown ups wishing to be younger. Paige’s Jordana is a cool and calm femme fatale, who, like Roberts, is pretending to be everything she isn’t.

Unlike other high school movies that go for style over substance, the pair of protagonists truly reflect that awkward stage of courtship; clammy hand holding, stilted conversations and knowing that no one else in the world is feeling what they’re feeling right now.

Richard Ayoade’s screenplay and direction is clever without being pretentious. Oliver regularly dictates the camera angles he requires to accentuate his emotions, but it’s not enough to take us out of the moment. It would be lazy writing to compare Ayoade to Wes Anderson, but there are definite influences at work through out.

With a solid movie like this (even with Alex Turner’s droning soundtrack), it’s nice to get excited about British cinema again. I, for one, look forward to seeing what else Ayoade has up his sleeve.

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