So few movies detail the (apparently) angst-ridden lives of Welsh youth. Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade (who you may know better as Maurice on The IT Crowd and as the glorious co-writer of Garth Marenghi and The Mighty Boosh), however, does just that. Taking a helping hand from Joe Dunthorne's 2008 novel of the same name, this foreign amalgam of Juno, Thumbsucker, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind focuses on the humdrum existence of Oliver Tate. In Oliver's mind, he is objectively chic, intelligent, and alluringly aloof. In reality, his classmates think he's kind of a pretentious tool.
To distract himself from the drudgery of Wales, he hones in on a girl named Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Page), who he believes is his equal in terms of social status. Somewhat mean-spirited and not at all the sentimental type, Jordana is at first immune to Oliver's attempts at reeling her in (chiefly, bullying a fellow classmate named Zoe Preece, played by Lily McCann, who is often tormented based on her weight and her refusal to pass notes in class). But when Jordana stumbles upon Oliver stopping at Zoe's house to bequeath a handbook on how to evade further torture, she uses the information to blackmail Oliver into kissing her as she takes pictures of them with his Polaroid camera. She then instructs Oliver to put the photos in his journal and leave it at school for someone to find so that her ex-boyfriend (who cheated on her) will find them.
Her plan to make the silly berk jealous doesn't quite work out as she had hoped, and Oliver ends up getting the shit kicked out of him for refusing to call Jordana a slut. This unexpected defense of her honor is what changes Jordana's mind about Oliver. She kisses him under non-blackmailing circumstances as he walks her home after the fight is over, prompting him to ask immediately, "Does this mean you're my girlfriend?" She responds, "I'll think about it."
Oliver and Jordana quickly slip into a montage of contentment--literally. Oliver views their initial two weeks together as a Super 8 clip show of good times. It is at this point when Oliver's school friends (acquaintances really) start to goad him for not having slept with her yet. Jordana, who is no maudlin prude, is receptive to Oliver's proposition and agrees to go to his house on the night his parents, Jill (Sally Hawkins) and Lloyd (Noah Taylor), go to the cinema. This particular plotline provides an altogether different subset of problems for Oliver as his mother agrees to bring their next door neighbor, Graham (Paddy Considine, whose shiteous mullet makes him almost unrecognizable from the In America days), who also happens to be Jill's ex-boyfriend and first love. And thus, to quote Bridget Jones, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces."
This is why, after having sex with Jordana (the first time awkwardly and the second time successfully), Oliver fears his mother is teetering dangerously close to infidelity. It is also around this time that Jordana, now feeling comfortable enough to express emotion to Oliver, informs him that her mother has a potentially fatal brain tumor. Feeling her issue trumps his, Oliver keeps his own parental conundrum to himself. In taking on the burden of spying religiously on his mother, as well as routine searches of his parents' bedroom, Oliver begins to neglect Jordana in her time of need; this negligence includes not showing up to the hospital on the day of Jordana's mother's surgery after she specifically asks him to be there. As is often the case when shit gets too real, Oliver could not resist the inclination to bail.
Consequently, Jordana breaks up with him in a letter, leaving Oliver utterly heartbroken and full of regret. The issues between his parents having resolved themselves (though his mother "gave a hand job to a mystic"), Oliver can now only think of Jordana (who already has a new bloke. Bitch works it.) and all he has lost as a result of his waffling. His parents console him by telling him that none of this will matter when he's thirty-eight (I'm guessing that's the age they are, so that's why they pull that number out). Oliver allows this small comfort to placate him for a time, but then ultimately decides that this will matter when he's thirty-right. Because he genuinely and truly is in love with Jordana (what do you expect? Wales has a very minuscule population).
The romance of Submarine is accented by the scenery of a country that is often relegated to the role of being a poor substitute for England. I mean, fuck, if the U.S. had half as much picturesque coastline, there would be a new love story in theaters every week. But no, most of our backgrounds feature a Wal-Mart. Also adding to the romance factor is Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys comprising most of the film's soundtrack. So yeah, it's a double threat of romance. Be careful. You might get the idea that it could happen to you.