Saturday, July 11, 2015

Drowning, not waving

Apparently comedian Richard Ayoade's Submarine is stuffed full with the sort of subtle references and nods to other films and directors that nerdy cinephiles love. I gather it reveals him to be a particularly keen student of French New Wave cinema. I wouldn't know myself, but ignorance of cinematic history was no impediment to enjoying what is an extremely accomplished directorial debut.

Submarine is a deadpan, offbeat coming-of-age comedy with a dark heart, shot through with depression and hopelessness. The metaphor of being underwater that gives it its title is pervasive, though its negative connotations are transformed in a wonderful final sequence.

It's not hard to see why Ayoade might have identified with Oliver, the central protagonist of the Joe Dunthorne novel from which the film is adapted. A gawky and mildly autistic teenager with duffel coat and briefcase, he's an outsider looking at life from a distance, able to communicate best in writing and possessed of a vivid imagination.

One of the film's best moments is the superbly awkward seduction scene, which sees Oliver wearing a jacket and tie, decorating the dinner table with balloons and flowers, and laying on boxed wine and prawn cocktails in an attempt to impress. Not that he's alone in suffering relationship woes - his parents, despite the benefit of age, actually seem even more immature when it comes to matters of the heart.

Returning to Ayoade's cinematic touchstones, the works of Wes Anderson are clearly an influence, and Submarine boasts the sort of quirky characters for whom Anderson is renowned. Paddy Considine is particularly good, playing a suave guru with mullet and leather trousers - a role not dissimilar to Patrick Swayze's in Donnie Darko. Considine's presence in a cast is usually a guarantee of quality, and it certainly is in this case.

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