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  Submarine Bad Love
Year: 2010
Director: Richard Ayoade
Stars: Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Darren Evans, Osian Cai Dulais, Lily McCann, Otis Lloyd, Elinor Crawley, Stefan Rhodri, Gemma Chan, Melanie Walters, Sion Tudor Owen, Adrienne O'Sullivan, Jonny Wier, Ben Stiller
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) sometimes thinks about what would happen if he died and imagines the outpouring of grief which would afflict his school as a result, with his fellow pupils crying in class, television crews arriving to capture the tributes, his parents being interviewed about the situation, until he would return from the other side with incredible powers, the object of desire for every girl and so on... But that won't happen, because he only has eyes for one girl, and she is Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige) for she seems the kind of person he could really get along with.

Although Oliver will have to compromise his principles first, because what impresses Jordana is picking on and bullying the weak and disadvantaged, which is a disadvantage in itself if you want to get along with Submarine, the directorial debut of Richard Ayoade. He came to prominence in the field of comedy, appearing on hilarious cult favourite sitcom Garth Marenghi's Darkplace before going far more mainstream with The I.T. Crowd; this offered him all sorts of chances, but his first film was like a statement of intent that he wasn't going to play nice necessarily - some described this movie as heartwarming, but that heart was a cold one.

Adapting Joe Dunthorne's novel, the plot drew parallels between the teenagers and the generation of their parents, set sometime in the nineteen-eighties, and found that far from getting over the problems of your younger years in adulthood, those problems would follow you about, if not playing on your mind then actively re-emerging and persecuting you. Thus Oliver has girlfriend trouble with Jordana, and his parents are having issues when mother Jill (Sally Hawkins) strays from father Lloyd (Noah Taylor) as old boyfriend Graham (Paddy Considine) re-enters her life, having reinvented himself as a motivational speaker and self help guru with a line in martial arts. As he lives close enough for Oliver to spy upon, this compounds the boy's unease.

Compounding your unease would be the way in which Oliver throws in his lot with the bullies to impress Jordana, a ploy which is very successful but having him develop into a victimiser so early in the plot tends to colour your feelings towards him. It wouldn't be so bad if he was trying to redeem her, but he actively encourages her, and here's the weird thing: Submarine would have been more effective as a homosexual teen romance seeing as how Jordana embodies very masculine attributes in her relationship with her latest beau as they both get up to very boyish pursuits. Even stranger, when tragedy threatens her life, she grows more feminine and Oliver falls out of love with her, or at least becomes more awkward around her.

Meanwhile, Graham is a threat of a different variety because Oliver is undergoing a fresh crisis when his moping dad cannot measure up to the cartoonish manliness of this would-be replacement in Jill's affections. Oliver must attempt to orchestrate a way to keep his family together, which would be the appropriate subject of many a Disney movie as much as an indie schmindie drama, and many accused Ayoade of taking inspiration from the likes of Rushmore and Harold and Maude, two touchstones of discomfited cinematic youth. But as a director, he certainly had a flair for the poetically downbeat visual, which went some way to sustaining the narrative, keeping scenes short and snappy and not afraid to branch out into self-parodic fantasy sequences as Oliver tries to lose himself in his thoughts. This didn't prevent it from being a rather chilly exercise, as if not only its young protagonist was examining those around him with a scientific eye, but we were meant to as well; the pat happy ending was unconvincing after that. Music by Alex Hewitt, songs by Alex Turner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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