Deborah Ross

Mad about the boy

I love this film. It’s terrific. You should go see it, and go see it now. Just abandon everything and go. The children? They’ll be fine, so long as you put all sharp objects and poisons out of their reach. Don’t use that old excuse! Now, how best to sum it up? OK, if you’ve ever wished that another Gregory’s Girl would come along, but with a darker underbelly — and who hasn’t? Particularly in the early hours — then this is it although, by mentioning Gregory’s Girl, I’m not saying Submarine isn’t original, because it is. I’m just trying to give you the flavour of it. Sometimes, I do wish you could be a bit more grateful. It’s not like I don’t give you free childcare tips. What more do you want? Blood?

Mad about the boy
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I love this film. It’s terrific. You should go see it, and go see it now. Just abandon everything and go. The children? They’ll be fine, so long as you put all sharp objects and poisons out of their reach. Don’t use that old excuse! Now, how best to sum it up? OK, if you’ve ever wished that another Gregory’s Girl would come along, but with a darker underbelly — and who hasn’t? Particularly in the early hours — then this is it although, by mentioning Gregory’s Girl, I’m not saying Submarine isn’t original, because it is. I’m just trying to give you the flavour of it. Sometimes, I do wish you could be a bit more grateful. It’s not like I don’t give you free childcare tips. What more do you want? Blood?

I love this film. It’s terrific. You should go see it, and go see it now. Just abandon everything and go. The children? They’ll be fine, so long as you put all sharp objects and poisons out of their reach. Don’t use that old excuse! Now, how best to sum it up? OK, if you’ve ever wished that another Gregory’s Girl would come along, but with a darker underbelly — and who hasn’t? Particularly in the early hours — then this is it although, by mentioning Gregory’s Girl, I’m not saying Submarine isn’t original, because it is. I’m just trying to give you the flavour of it. Sometimes, I do wish you could be a bit more grateful. It’s not like I don’t give you free childcare tips. What more do you want? Blood?

Directed by Richard Ayoade, who plays über-nerd Moss in the TV comedy series The IT Crowd and directs music videos, and based on the book by Joe Dunthorne, it’s set in Swansea in the Eighties and is a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old boy who acquires his first girlfriend while fretting about the state of his parents’ marriage.

The boy is the perpetually duffel-coated Oliver Tate, as played by Craig Roberts, who looks like a squashed Martin Freeman, and whose lugubrious, deadpan expression is mindful of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and whose behaviour is mindful of the teenagers we all once were, or were we? I don’t know, but it feels like we were. Submarine is smart, funny and touching, but the best thing about it is that it just feels so totally true.

Oliver is our hero, but isn’t one of those straightforward, lovable outsiders. He is clever, but also self-obsessed, self-pitying, doggedly literal, a bit nerdy — he learns a new word from the dictionary every day — and has his moral lapses. For example, he willingly joins in with the bullying of the fat kid at school to impress the girl he fancies, which is a bit off, but we can see the vulnerabilities that make him behave that way, and even feel tenderly towards him. His outlook is logical, but his rampant imagination continually undoes him, and his inner voice, which works as our narrator, is wonderfully funny.

At one point in the story he says that what the film needs now is a crane shot, and ‘unless things get better, the biopic of my life will only have the budget for a zoom out’, at which point the camera zooms out. Ayoade uses many such self-referential tricks but they never feel precious or twee because they are just, well, so self-referentially Oliver.

Anyway, Oliver has romantic yearnings for his classmate, Jordana (Yasmin Paige), who looks out contemptuously from under her black helmet of hair, is fond of bullying (‘in moderation’, Oliver hastily qualifies) and is a mild pyromaniac who likes to singe the hair on boys’ legs (don’t we all; some days I do nothing else). Once Oliver and Jordana get together, he must negotiate losing his virginity — a brilliantly awkward scene — while coping with the gloomy situation at home.

His father, Lloyd (Noah Taylor), is a depressed marine biologist while his mother, Jill (Sally Hawkins), who is done up like Wendy Craig from Butterflies, for some reason, appears to be showing too much interest in her former beau, Graham (Paddy Considine). Graham is a New Age something or other who reads people’s ‘colours’, wears leather trousers, has the mullet of mullets and may be too broadly comic, but it doesn’t matter. The film can take it.

The beauty of Submarine — the title, by the way, comes from the submerged feeling depressed people get, as if they are underwater — is all in the details, particularly the script’s wry observations, which can be excruciating. When Jill says she works in an office where ‘the rule is you have to bring in your own cake on your birthday’, we know just what sort of office that is. When Lloyd morosely tutors Oliver in the art of seduction — ‘I know you think I’m boring but I once ripped my vest off in front of a woman’ — it’s as sad as it is comic.

To sum up, again? OK, this is a wonderfully smart exploration of what happens when the adolescent mind meddles in the adult world, and you should go see it. Don’t worry about those kids. I’ve done it lots of times. Alternatively, you could just drop them at A&E, and cut out the middle man.