A very dry sense of humour runs through all of “Submarine”. It’s a coming of age comedy/drama, set in Wales during the 1980s and based on Joe Dunthorne’s 2008 book.
Young people shorn of mobile phones, computers and social networks? Passing notes at school and dependent on telephone calls at home? It feels like another world.
There are some very unfortunate anachronisms and the sense of continuity is not done any favours by having cars from the 1990s, furniture and clothing that didn’t exist until later and a host of other details that are wrong. If you are going to set your film in a particular time, do get the details right. I accept many others may not be jarred by these issues.
Despite these misgivings, there is much to love in director Richard Ayoade’s distinctive indie film and script. Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is a self-obsessed teenage boy – is there any other kind – who has two goals. Oliver wants to lose his virginity and save his parents’ marriage.
Craig’s look is somewhere in between John Lennon and Carl Barat. A deft series of comments show how little Oliver realises what is really going on around him. There are very funny lines here.
Good and realistic scenes about playground bullying and excellent classroom sets enhance the whole.
Yasmin Paige is superb as Jordana, playing an outsider with just the right sense of those pre-feminist times. She shows guts and sparkles in her role.
The lighting is absolutely extraordinary and Ayoade and cinematographer Erik Wilson deserve huge praise for bathing Barry, Wales in natural light and nodding to French New Wave in subtle and beautiful ways.
As to the grown ups, they’re a hopeless bunch and a hoot. Sally Hawkins plays Oliver’s mother, Jill. Jill is a civil servant and is bored and drifting away from marine biologist husband Lloyd, played by Noah Taylor. Jill’s old boyfriend Graham shows Paddy Considine as a new age guru and it’s a cringe worthy performance.
There is lots of pathos here and good touches of darkness. None of the characters gets an easy ride, although there are numerous laughs, of the very dry English kind.
I enjoyed it and it’s only 90 minutes long, but still packs in quite a lot of insight. Roberts and Paige will be big stars, probably in Hollywood and very soon.
New music by the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner is used to great effect. The Stratford Picturehouse audience laughed out load often and seemed to enjoy is a very great deal.
I didn’t love and adore and drool over it. I think that’s because the continuity issues and that distance that Ayoade brought to “The IT Crowd” serve to make me feel at arm’s length from the whole. I never fully engaged with the story and characters. Their choices reminded me of that Pink Floyd phrase: “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” and I like to see progress in people in movies.
People will talk about it a lot as the future of film so you really should see it. For me, it disappointed in that I didn’t get that feeling that I would like to meet these people in real life. But I have seen many worse films and the music, light, dialogue and sense of troubled families all redeem the whole.