- 11 Mar 11
“I find the only way to get through life is to imagine myself in a disconnected reality,” muses Oliver Tate, the narcissistic narrator of Submarine. The precocious teenager played by Craig Roberts is trying to navigate his way through teenage life in Wales. Despite declaring himself the intellectual superior of his peers and adopting singular affectations such as smoking a pipe and reading the dictionary, it’s clear that he’s desperately seeking some connection – so much so that when the school bullies invite him to join them in pushing an overweight classmate into a lake, he proclaims it to be “one of the glorious memories of childhood.” He also strikes up a relationship with Jordana (Yasmine Paige), a brusque pyromaniac who stomps through the film in a red duffel coat like a rejected auditionee for Don’t Look Now. Though the two lead characters should be irredeemable, filled as they are with typical teenage self-absorption, Roberts and Paige’s brilliant performances and impeccable comic timing prove utterly charming.
Contrasting with Oliver and Jordana’s blossoming, montage-filled romance is the joyless marriage of Oliver’s parents. During “a routine search of my parents’ bedroom”, Oliver deduces that his mother (Sally Hawkins) still has feelings for her first love, their New Age voodoo-spouting neighbour (a hilarious, scene-stealing Paddy Considine), and his subsequent attempts to fix his parents’ marriage and reignite their sex life are at once excruciating, uproariously funny and very touching.
Visually, Submarine is as beautifully eccentric as its characters. Combining the stylistic devices of French New Wave cinema, classic horror and beautiful shots of the Welsh coastline, the characters inhabit a completely heightened world, and the brilliantly witty script and Alex Turner’s soundtrack further serve to highlight the themes of love, loneliness and death. Ayoade’s direction shows not only admirable skill but obvious affection, which prevents Submarine’s innate indie-ness from ever entering the realm of smug self-satisfaction. Instead, this hilarious, unique coming of age story already feels like a classic.