Thursday 31 March 2011

Milk, Polo Mints and Dunhill International

Last night I saw Submarine, the much-admired coming-of-age film set in 1980s Swansea. The plot concerns Oliver (Craig Roberts) trying to lose his virginity with Jordana (Yasmin Paige) before he turns 16 and preventing his mum leaving dad, a failed Open University ichthyologist, and running off with a ghastly New Age therapist.

The grimy estuarine beauty of bombed-out, shabbily-rebuilt, and kleptocratically-governed 20th century Swansea is captured well by first-time director Richard Ayoade, an added bonus for those of us who have an improbable affection for Wales' poor old second city. But the film is anyway very funny and moving so make sure you get there. Oliver describes his first kiss with Jordana as tasting of "milk, polo mints and Dunhill International" - don't we all remember the taste of a first kiss? - but blows the relationship by turning his focus towards his parents' problems.

The film is not about mental illness but this blog must of course highlight the references of which there are several...

Dad is taking medication for depression and exhibits middling-serious symptoms of passivity and self-neglect.

Jordana is tormented by eczema and has slightly alarming pyromaniacal tendencies but the former turns out to be caused by her dog rather than by psychological pressures and the latter looked to me like growing-up stuff which she'd probably get through.

Oliver discovers that his worried mum has bought a book on psychosis in children. He plays up to this by describing improbable delusions to her as a way (I assume) of keeping her away from his real issues which he correctly judges she wouldn't be able to help with. At the end of the film Oliver launches a criminal assault on the therapist's house which might easily have earned him a psychiatric assessment had the authorities been notified - though a fair-minded professional might have agreed with me that his actions formed a grounded and proportionate response to his vile antagonist's behaviour.

Mum is the one to worry about but she has no insight so hard to see the way forward there, though what appears to be a genuine reconciliation with dad may ease the way.

Will Oliver get his girl back at the end? You will have to go see. Plenty of seats at Vue Swansea where the ticket lady tells me "They don't like indie films round here".