Oliver Tate (Roberts) is besotted with Jordana (Paige), a feisty girl in his class. Yet, as he embarks on his first relationship, he also frets over that of his parents (Hawkins and Taylor), a situation exacerbated by one of his mum's exes (Considine) moving in down the road.
Before Submarine, Richard Ayoade’s steps towards the big screen were tentative tiptoes: little cameos in the little-seen likes of Festival and Bunny And The Bull. It doesn’t help that, despite winning over many with his man-robot antics in The IT Crowd as über-nerd Moss, playing alongside Chris O’Dowd’s mildly more worldly Roy, acting is hardly his forte. Indeed, it is behind the camera that Ayoade has finally found his cinematic feet. And, boy, can he dance.
Submarine is, simply, a joy. A joy jostled by the comedy of discomfort, sure, but like early Wes Anderson (a comparison that no doubt makes Ayoade squirm, but his film bears it well), its quirkier and darker tendencies are leavened by the warmth and likability of his characters; Ayoade even manages to make you sympathise with Paddy Considine’s mullet-crested bullshit guru — a man so self-absorbingly ignorant he can tell a room of people that “light is the most important gift we have from the universe” and believe it.
Besides flagging up his love for the medium through savvy visual references and some well-played fourth wall-breaking (listen out for the voiceover gag about crane shots and zooms), Ayoade has also cast his debut perfectly. And we’re not just talking about the adults, including two of the UK’s best actors (Considine and Sally Hawkins) and one of Australia’s most underrated (Noah Taylor). Craig Roberts (an oddly appealing facial blend of James McAvoy and Martin Freeman) and Yasmin Paige (whose Jordana is burly yet vulnerable) make a wonderful couple, his hesitant introversion balanced by her fiery extroversion. Oliver spends most of the film hanging in doorways, while Jordana is the kind of girl who prefers to slam doors.
Both are considerably assisted by Ayoade’s humdinger of a script (adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel). Their virginity-losing date, for example, begins with Jordana snapping, “Thanks for living up a fucking hill”, and concludes with her warning, “Don’t get cocky.” Meanwhile, Oliver talks of brief hat phases and routine searches of his parents’ bedroom, while at one point poignantly reflecting, with truly adolescent angstiness, that “we’re all travelling under the radar and there’s nothing we can do about it”. Well, one thing is for certain: Ayoade’s time under the radar is well and truly over.
A perfect blend of cool, quirky comedy and warm-hearted drama, crafted with such poise that it should see the transcendence of Ayoade from TV nerd-comic to true big-screen talent.