Starring: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine
Director: Richard Ayoade
In a film brimming with homages to nouvelle vague classics, one scene in Submarine stands out. Seated at the cafeteria, the film's student protagonist Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) stares into a bowl of custard. Zooming in, director Richard Ayoade conjures a visual parallel to the most well-known image in Jean-Luc Godard's 2 or 3 Three Things I Know About Her, in which the French filmmaker evokes the cosmos in a close-up of a swirling cup of coffee.
But the difference between the two scenes is telling about Submarine. While Godard's universe-in-a-cup is backed by a hushed voiceover about alienation in a consumerist universe and references to 'crushing objectivity and isolating subjectivity' in an age where 'revolutions are impossible ... and the working class retreats' - Ayoade's custard shot is made in silence.
Submarine is nostalgia coated with bittersweet humour which rarely addresses the social contexts which underpin Tate's estrangement from his life in Swansea in the 1980s, apart from rare mentions of the humiliation his academic father Lloyd (Noah Taylor) suffers, or how the relative success of the ex of his frustrated wife Jill (Sally Hawkins), Graham (Paddy Considine), as a New Age master speaks volumes about the fragility of things.
Ayoade's film is primarily about a self-satisfied and deeply cynical schoolboy's difficult rite of passage as he deploys his self-acquired knowledge - from politics to psychology - to relate to his parents' disintegrating marriage, a bullying school environment and his crush on Jordana (Yasmin Paige, above with Roberts), a girl whose domineering persona veils an emotionally fragile psyche shaped by family trouble and an impending bereavement.
Ayoade has coaxed good performances from his cast. And Submarine boasts great comedic moments, but the mix of post-modern self-aware storytelling devices and the lost-boy-looking-for-love theme doesn't quite gel.
Submarine opens today