Directing One's Own Coming-of-Age in Submarine

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a rampant 15-year-old only child, has two presiding preoccupations, detailed in rapid voiceover throughout Submarine: a broody classmate, Jordana (Yasmin Paige), and the flatlined sex life of his parents (show-stealers Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins), brought to crisis by the arrival of mom’s glam-guru old flame (Paddy Considine). Richard Ayoade, star of British sitcom The IT Crowd, debuts as a director here, and seems hell-bent on emptying his collected toolbox of stylistic effects in one go. There are “Remember the time . . .” cutaway gags, dream sequences, Raging Bull flashbulbs, and kaleidoscope fireworks. The place is Wales; the time is a mashup of the past 30 years, as Crocodile Dundee and Eric Rohmer movies compete at the local cinema. The allusions don’t stop there: Paige has a Rita Tushingham bob, while Roberts seems cast more for his marshmallow-malleable face than for any ability to convey depths of feeling. Reiterated throughout is the idea of Oliver as self-conscious director of his own young love and heartbreak—he stages his first time having sex with Jordana, plays back their salad days in a Super 8 highlight reel of cavorting in industrial estates, and muses, “I wait ’til the sky catches up with my mood” during one bout of melancholy. And though Submarine isn’t a dull head-movie, amid the bells and whistles, Roberts seems less its star than its cameraman.

 
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