Submarine DVD Review

Submarines are strange creatures.

They spend the majority of their lives with their heads under water, move kind of funny when compared to other kinds of seafaring devices and tend to slip under the radar by design.

All of which may have inspired the name of Joe Dunthorne’s debut novel, Submarine, and no doubt moved Richard Ayoade sufficiently to adapt this for his own virgin directorial voyage for his film of the same name.

Submarine begins with a boy lamenting the lack of idiosyncrasy in our world. This is Oliver Tate, a peculiar teenager with a vivid imagination coupled with a predilection for duffel coats and briefcases.

Before long, we get to see the grandiose delusions that frequently wander through Oliver’s mind; as his thoughts drift away from the classroom and to his overly romanticised and rather fantastical death.

But Oliver is also on the cusp of manhood and, soon enough, he starts to notice Jordana who makes him want to stop living in his own head and move into hers instead.

Unfortunately for Oli, the object of his affection appears to find bullying and other teenage acts of mindless destruction rather attractive.

Smitten by his dangerous liaison, he rejects his true nature and sets out to impress her; with inevitably disastrous consequences for everyone’s favourite victim at school.

Wracked with guilt, the overly sensitive Oliver writes to his humiliated prey with some carefully considered advice on how she can avoid being bullied; only for his would be paramour to intercept said anti-bullying manifesto and uses it to blackmail him into making her ex jealous.

Fortuitously enough, this involves Jordana taking photos of the pair kissing before leaving these images scattered around their school. But as things start to develop between these two, will Oliver be able to stop living in his head long enough to notice what’s really going on inside Jordana’s?

I’d been looking forward to catching Submarine ever since I ballsed up a theatrical Soho screening for this earlier in the year, which I still partially blame a sunken entrance and my new found reliance on less than smart phones for.

As well as my less than savvy navigation skills.

But I can honestly say it was worth. Submarine is the funniest, most insightful and original film I’ve seen this year. The script, whilst occasionally slipping off course when plotting Oliver’s attempts to salvage his parents’ marriage, is bursting with wit and the sort of detail that only comes when a writer truly reveals something of themselves in their text.

This is never more telling than with the poignant and beautifully realised romance that blossoms between Oliver and Jordana. The escalation of their relationship from boy and girl who’ve sort of seen each other around, evolving into a deeper and ultimately vulnerable connection they share will remind you of all those little things – good and bad – you felt when falling in love for the first time.

Both Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, cast in the roles of Oliver and Jordana, are close to spectacular in their realistic portrayals of their respective characters; but it’s Miss Paige who steals the show and my heart as the feisty and wilful Jordana, who could level a parking lot with one look from beneath her fringe that belies both her age and experience.

Not to be outdone, Ayoade’s directorial debut is nothing short of stunning. With obvious nods to Wes Anderson’s canon of filmmaking finesse, Ayoade still manages to conjure a movie that feels both defiantly unique and Welsh.

That’s right, Welsh not british. I’ve had more than enough of middle englanders trying to rechristen every great Scottish and Welsh thing for the sake of their own crushing inferiority complexes.

The rest of the ensemble cast, most of whom you’ll recognise, ensure that Submarine doesn’t take on any water with some streamlined performances.

So whatever you may feel about submarines, don’t let this one slip under your radar.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

August 2011