Submarine15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
Everyone struggles at some point with being a teenager. Just think then, how much worse it must be growing up in Wales? That's right, at least 7.5 times more difficult. To illustrate this point, Richard Ayoade brings this tale of young love and other stuff to the fore in his debut feature Submarine.
It's surprising that 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) doesn't get picked on more often than he does at school, considering he has a briefcase as his school bag. His success at avoiding the bullies must be down to his ability to not appear on their radars; the problem is, he doesn't really appear on anyone's.
And then one day he does; due to a remarkable and unusual sign of bravery, he gets noticed by Jordana (Yasmin Paige), whom he just so happens to be head over heels in love with. Fate has, for once, been kind to Oliver, as he finally gets the girl. He soon finds out though, that getting the girl of your dreams is one thing, but keeping her interested is a different thing altogether.
Oliver isn't helped at all by his situation at home; his mum Jill (Sally Hawkins) appears to be drifting away from her hubby Lloyd (Noah Taylor) and towards their new age guru neighbour Graham (Paddy Considine). He's finding their behaviour very distracting, which means he can't focus all of his attention on the seduction of Jordana. Can he save his parent's relationship as well as his own?
Although Ayoade may be better known for his turn as über-geek Moss in the TV series The IT Crowd, he shows a real talent at this directing lark with his first film. He's helped by a solid cast, that's for sure, getting great performances from his love-struck duo Roberts and Paige.
What he also does is present his vision as if it's been filmed with the aid of an app like Instagram for the iPod. He uses the effect so much that it does feel overly retro in places, allowing it to distract from the story somewhat. An audience doesn't need to be constantly reminded visually that these events take place just before mobile phones, the internet and DVDs. It may be on the ambiguous side as to when it does take place exactly, but it doesn't take a genius to place it somewhere between the late seventies/early eighties.
It tries too hard in other places too, as Ayoade slaps its indie sensibility all over the shop. Thankfully the soundtrack by Arctic Monkey Alex Turner is one of the more enjoyable wafts of indie, but overall it could have been toned down a bit.
The story is one that is certainly strong enough to carry the film, even if the dialogue is just occasionally off the mark; certainly not enough to spoil the film, but it does have some barren patches in places.
Still, who wouldn't prefer to watch a film that tries a little too hard at times over one that doesn't try hard enough?
Not only does Ayoade nail it with the bleak Welsh location, but on this evidence has shown that he's got what it takes to turn it off and on again at will as a director.