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Amid a torrent of stylistic effects, Submarine stays the course

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a rampant fifteen-year-old only child, has two presiding preoccupations, detailed in rapid voiceover throughout Submarine: a broody classmate, Jordana (Yasmin Paige), and the flatlined sex life of his parents (show-stealers Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins), brought to crisis by the arrival of mom's glam-guru old flame (Paddy Considine). Richard Ayoade, star of British sitcom The IT Crowd, debuts as a director here, and seems hell-bent on emptying his collected toolbox of stylistic effects in one go. There are "Remember the time..." cutaway gags, dream sequences, Raging Bull flashbulbs and kaleidoscope fireworks. The place is Wales; the time is a mash-up of the past thirty years, as Crocodile Dundee and Eric Rohmer movies compete at the local cinema. The allusions don't stop there: Paige has a Rita Tushingham bob, while Roberts seems cast more for his marshmallow-malleable face than for any ability to convey depth of feeling. Reiterated throughout is the idea of Oliver as self-conscious director of his own young love and heartbreak: He stages his first time having sex with Jordana, plays back their salad days in a Super 8 highlight reel of cavorting in industrial estates, and muses, "I wait 'til the sky catches up with my mood" during one bout of melancholy. And though Submarine isn't a dull head movie, amid the bells and whistles, Roberts seems less its star than its cameraman.

 
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