Submarine is a subtle charmer

mfctoplist_header-may-2014

Director: Richard Ayoade
Screenplay by: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Craign Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Sally Hawkins

I came to know about Submarine because I was (and still am) obsessed with Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys. I found out that there was this coming-of-age film with a soundtrack written entirely by Alex Turner during the pre-Suck It And See era; it signified the change in sound Arctic Monkeys was headed towards, from its indie rock garage band roots.

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Submarine is told from the point of view of fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate who is infatuated with his classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige). She soon becomes his girlfriend after an encounter wherein Jordana took photographs of them kissing just to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. They spend “two weeks of lovemaking” together, as seen in a happy montage set to “Hiding Tonight.” Oliver learns more about Jordana, including her mother’s brain tumor. After Oliver realizes that said situation might change the Jordana he knows and loves, he takes a step back and severs all communication between them. In the meantime, Oliver’s parents hit a rough patch. After some time and without any help from Oliver’s interference, they eventually reconcile. Jordana on the other hand, finds a new boyfriend. Saddened by the news, Oliver apologizes to Jordana to no avail. Towards the end, they talk on the beach. And albeit the movie ends on an ambiguous note, I’d like to believe that the last scene shows that they’ve both decided to step forward together.

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Submarine is unabashedly about the world of a young boy – what he cares about and what he does about it. To say however that it is a typical coming-of-age film would be an understatement. Oliver is aware of the narration of his life happening as the film progresses. The time when it is set is not necessarily determinable, as there are telephones, letters, typewriters, and cassette players instead of cellphones, computers, and iPods. Oliver attempts to save his parents’ marriage rather than wallow in sorrow and rebellion over it. He also engages in bullying (did he really push her into the pond?) to impress a girl he likes. Jordana is well liked, considering her eczema, which is surprising in a world where skin problems spell social suicide for a teen. Oliver and Jordana’s “two weeks of lovemaking” include blowing random things up. All this makes for a heartwarming tale about adolescence, its idealism, the importance of self-image and reputations, and second chances.

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The film is infused with dry humor and a good dose of reality. Its leads are not traditionally attractive, in the way that coming-of-age movies typically depict characters, yet they are easy to sympathize with. Everything works, from the stylish presentation of chapters to the superb casting.

Oliver’s own journey made us nostalgic for our own, albeit his would appear more stylized. But if his story taught us anything, it’s that the adolescent phase forms us into certain kinds of people – decent ones, we should hope.

-J

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