Clearly, TF star columnist Richard Ayoade isn’t just that über-geek from The IT Crowd.
He’s co-written and directed cult comedies (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) and made music videos for Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend.
But on the evidence of his feature debut, at least, Ayoade retains a keen empathy for the socially awkward.
Adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel, Submarine is the story of Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a teenager in a small Welsh town with two goals: to lose his virginity and to prevent his mother (Sally Hawkins) from having it away with the mulleted neighbour (a perfect Paddy Considine). But Oliver’s attempts at adult interaction are hampered by a level of self-absorption that’s amusing and heart-piercing in equal measure.
In his pursuit of uncomfortable laughs, Ayoade gets a big assist from his two duffle-coated leads, particularly Yasmin Paige as Oliver’s cold, coquettish girlfriend, Jordana.
But what beguiles is that Submarine is the vainglorious arthouse epic a 15-year-old movie buff would see himself starring in. nouvelle Vague-referencing jump cuts, pontificating voiceover, title cards grandly announcing each chapter…
Far from show-off flourishes, such devices serve Ayoade’s arch, affectionate portrait of a teenager’s mind-scape. Here, to be young is to be a self-obsessed nincompoop.
If Submarine loses momentum as it progresses, that’s because there are no cathartic resolutions. When Oliver tries to kick a bully in the balls, the bully catches his leg mid-air.
When he grandly confesses his undying love to Jordana, she’s witheringly unimpressed.
Smart and sly, funny and fourth-wall-breaking… but above all, an excruciatingly accurate coming-of-ager. On this evidence, Ayoade could be Britain’s answer to Wes Anderson.