The film is narrated by 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) as he strives to win the heart of classmate Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige), a girl with a fondness for fire and someone who's as much of a misfit as him. Oliver's parents, meanwhile, are on the rocks as his father Lloyd (Noah Taylor), an eternally downbeat marine biologist, appears content to let wife Jill (Sally Hawkins) drift into the arms of her old flame, the new-age motivational speaker Graham T. Purvis (Paddy Considine). Oliver is naturally introverted, yet sees himself as some kind of universally-loved boy genius. One of his early delusional daydreams, when he contemplates the reaction to his own death, sees all of Wales in mourning for the loss. Later, Ayoade pushes his camera into an 8mm projector (similar to the opening of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets) to show a 'memories' reel of Oliver and Jordana's romance. In less subtle hands, flights of fancy such as these may not have worked, but Ayoade is able to reign in the quirk factor that plagues so many American indies.
Ayoade's music video training ground is quickly evident - he effortlessly overlaps sound and image to elicit feeling and emotion. There's bold use of colour, too, with blue and red standing in for the cut to blacks and Jordana's red coat vibrantly popping out of the frame, highlighting her importance to Oliver as the story plays out from his perspective. Ayoade weaves jump cuts and quick zooms around postcard-perfect images of the Welsh scenery. For every tight close-up of Oliver's hangdog expression (he's Dustin Hoffman's Ben Braddock mixed with a young James McAvoy), there's a sequence of him alone (or occasionally with Jordana) against the landscape. It makes the closing moments of Submarine all the more resonant.
Ayoade is careful to make sure his directorial stamp doesn't sideline the performances, which provide the heart and soul of the film. Newcomers Roberts and Paige (formerly of The Sarah Jane Adventures) deliver stand-out turns as the love-struck teens, backed up by subtle work from Hawkins and Taylor. It's Considine, though, who practically steals the film as the charismatic Graham. It's a small role but he conjures up a funny and instantly memorable character. It's also worth looking out for Ben Stiller, who has the briefest of cameos appearing on a television screen. From director Ayoade and his young Submarine, there may be big things to come.
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