I wanted to like the movie Submarine more than I did.
It’s a small, quirky, British film in the style of Wes Anderson, with great deal of charm.
It’s directed by a first time film maker Richard Ayoade, a person I’d not previously heard of, but who is, according to some of the newspaper reviews of this film, very highly regarded by the ‘cool’ people who read the NME. As I didn’t know that they still produced the NME, maybe I’m not in the group predisposed to rave about Submarine.
Set in the mid 1980s, the first 15 minutes or so are amusing and entertaining, awkward teen Oliver imagines blanket television news coverage of his sudden death: candlelit vigils, inconsolable girls weeping at the school gates, mountains of flowers and tokens creating a shrine to which a solemn procession make s a pilgrimage.
But for me after that, the film never quite swept me along into that zone where I forgot the passage of time; there are clever stop frame scenes and witty dialogue; I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the self important fluency of the Oliver’s internal thoughts heard as voice over and his awkwardness when actually required to speak.
I enjoyed Sally Hawkins performance as Oliver’s mother; a tightly wound, rather disappointed woman in fawn clothes just that bit too big for her. I didn’t recognise Noah Taylor as Oliver’s father, hidden behind a beard and long hair that nearly overwhelmed him; but something about the fact that he lacked the charisma to be even an Open University presenter was both funny and sad.
The film did make me think about the nature of nostalgia (again). It’s a story of coming of age and adolescent awkwardness, and as with all film within that genre, it’s told in the past; it’s not contemporary at all. Visually we are presented with a colour palette of urban decay outside and brown furnishings inside. Oliver and Jordana, his love interest, rarely take their duffel coats off, music is played from tapes, and there is only one phone in the house.
It seems that as the next generation of film makers comes to maturity there will be some who want to explore coming of age stories; and they will set them in the era when they themselves were coming of age. So we are constantly presented with nostalgia from 25 years ago. In another 10 years we will be presented with teenagers in the 1990s and so it will continue to ‘evolve’, or not.
I guess each generation re imagines the golden era when they themselves began discovering the world. There must be some magic associated with the colours and the artefacts of the mythical golden age that appeals to our senses.
Would we have less sympathy towards an angst ridden teen who has all the accoutrements of the contemporary world? Can they be as cut off and misunderstood when plugged into an MP3 player, a mobile phone and their Facebook page? Probably, but it seems likely we’ll need to wait twenty years to see it, by which time there will be some greater technological development that will make an iPhone look comically old fashioned, and the focus of fond nostalgia.