Judged solely on style-mag column inches, Submarine out-cools 2011’s competition by a mile.
Directed by the star of The IT Crowd, soundtracked by The Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, it’s a hipster’s dream even before you factor in its fashionable film-buff blend: François Truffaut’s freewheeling verve sealed with Wes Anderson’s deadpan formalism.
But remember: Wikipedia defines a submarine as “capable of independent operation below the surface of the water,” and Richard Ayoade’s feature debut has the stealth and range to go deep.
Ayoade’s pitch-perfect homages mirror his anti-hero, Welsh teenager Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a duffle-coated auteur who fancies himself as Alain Delon... except the movie-in-his-head is unravelling faster than Apocalypse Now, plagued by raging hormones, dickheads at every turn, and (mostly) Oliver’s own prima donna self-infatuation.
The film’s considerable laughs flow from the gap between Oliver’s imagined trendiness and his actual brittle moodiness.
Crucial is breakout star Roberts, whose faraway charm keeps Oliver’s misguided mischief the right side of cruel. Same applies to Jordana Bevan’s sarcastic siren, all devilish charisma.
Ayoade’s masterstroke is to make the grown-ups as childish as the kids, as Oliver battles to prevent ninja mystic Graham (an uproarious Paddy Considine) splitting up his parents (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins).
The film’s most truthful touch is the unshakeable sense that Oliver is destined for the same humdrum ennui unless he ditches the delusions.
No such fear for Ayoade, whose bravery will keep Submarine torpedoing expectations long after the style mags have left the shelves.
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