Jan Gilbert explains why Submarine (15) is her Movie of the Month
What’s the story? A Welsh dude goes on a mission to get the girl and save his parents’ marriage.
What’s it like? Toss a debut novel, a first-time feature film director, and a young unknown actor into the movie mixer, and you could find yourself with an acute case of big-screen gut-gripe.
Not so with British film Submarine because the novel is Joe Dunthorne’s 2008 hit, the director is IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade, and the actor is star-in-the-making Craig Roberts. All the ingredients of a sure-fire success, then?
Roberts plays Oliver Tate, a duffle coat-wearing, briefcase-carrying, dictionary-reading 15-year-old who prefers his fantasy version of life to the real deal. Roberts has some small-screen time under his belt including the BBC’s Young Dracula, but it’s a massive ask for a big-screen newcomer to carry a movie that’s told from his character’s point of view.
Fortunately, he gets the best lines, such as, ‘My dad drops me 100 yards from school. That way I can slip in like a torpedo, unnoticed.’ Madly in lust with kooky classmate Jordana Bevan, Roberts wrings every last drop of deadpan humour from the film’s script with a voiceover that’s as dry as a pharaoh’s flip-flop. ‘Now that we’d kissed for non-blackmail purposes, I thought it gentlemanly to escort Jordana home,’ he says. Yasmin Paige is perfectly cast as playground pyromaniac Jordana.
As for the film’s adults, Sally Hawkins does a fantastic job of being anything but Happy-Go-Lucky as Oliver’s blunt-as-a-hammer mum, Jill. Noah Taylor, Tomb Raider’s Bryce, adds to the film’s dry-as-a-desert wit as Oliver’s marine biologist dad, Lloyd. And The Bourne Ultimatum’s Paddy Considine is wickedly comical as Graham, the smug self-help guru with a mullet the size of Swansea and an eye firmly set on an affair with Oliver’s mum.
With a cracking soundtrack including new songs by Arctic Monkey Alex Turner, Dunthorne’s novel navigates a successful course from the white page to the silver screen. Sure there’ve been plenty of angst-ridden teen tales in cinemas over the years, but Submarine still feels fresh thanks to Ayoade’s stylish direction and sharp script, as well as the cast’s out-of-this-world performances.
Any clever bits? Oliver’s imagination goes into delusional overdrive as he pictures the explosion of national grief that would follow his early death. His deadpan voiceover describes the scene as we see his classmates weep uncontrollably, TV news analysis of the major event, and candlelit vigils held in Oliver’s honour.
Flipside’s verdict: Do the maths. Ayoade + Dunthorne + Roberts & Co = pure comic genius
Star Rating: 5*
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