Stars: Craig Roberts, Yasmine Paige, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor,
Director: Richard Ayoade
There's a method to the madness of the films I'm reviewing now. I'm busy preparing my Best Of 2011 list, and have been catching up on a few promising flicks I missed when they came out earlier in the year. All because I want my list to be truly reflective of the best--according to MY impeccable taste, of course!
So now we have Submarine.
Coming of age films (the good ones) are often funny, as well as poignant. Adolescence is a time of self-discovery; of testing one's wings; of taking those first few puppy love licks of another's face...and tasting her pancake makeup... PTOOEY!
The setting is a small town in Wales during the eighties. Fifteen year-old Oliver Tate has two primary concerns: Saving his parents' marriage, and engineering a successful courtship of classmate, Jordana.
Oliver (Craig Roberts) and Jordana (Yasmin Paige) are a quirky pair. Oliver lives a lot inside his head as he narrates much of the action for us. Jordana gets off on burning the hair off his leg with a match. They both participate as do-nothing bystanders when a female classmate is bullied. But they don't really see it as bullying--more like good-natured teasing where everyone is cackling and having a good time--except, rather expectedly, the victim. We will see later that Oliver develops a conscience about it. Jordana...not so much.
Craig's parents have fallen into that comfortable rut that befalls many a long married couple. The passion is gone. Oliver knows this because he has a clever way of monitoring their sexual (of lack thereof) activity. Oliver's dad, Lloyd, (Noah Taylor) is depressed. I mean, what would you call it when he shrugs his shoulders when it's obvious to everyone that his wife Jill (Sally Hawkins) is developing a thing for her old flame, Graham Purvis--a flamboyant guru type who lectures to packed houses, espousing his new-age twaddle (not that all new-age ideas are twaddle, but his are). Purvis is played with ego-dripping brilliance by Paddy Considine.
Oliver's parents are so amusingly stiff upper lip, so pseudo-hip, that they come into his room to explain to him that his mother--in a moment of weakness--performed a sexual act on the guru. "It's alright," his father says. "We've discussed it, and we've moved on."
Great stuff, but what captivated me most about Submarine was the interplay between Oliver and his love interest. Jordana subscribes to the tenet that ya gotta be cruel to be kind, and Oliver is game to play her game. But she is holding something inside about her own family that will test the mettle of their fledgling relationship.
You'll figure out the metaphorical significance of the title Submarine as you go along.