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Film / Submarine

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Submarine is a British dramedy released in 2010. It's the coming-of-age story of Oliver Tate, a teenage boy living in Swansea, Wales in the 1980s. He falls in love with Jordana, a fellow school student and committed mischief-maker, and at the same time starts to worry about his parents' health and marriage.

It's based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne, was the directorial debut of Richard Ayoade, and featured an original soundtrack by Alex Turner.


This film contains examples of:

  • Awesome McCoolname: Jordana Bevan, nicknamed by classmates as "Banana Heaven".
  • Book Worm: Oliver is given a dictionary and thesaurus as presents, and gives Jordana three heavy novels as a present.
  • Brainy Brunette: Oliver and Lloyd.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Zoe Preece... On a meta level as well; In the book, she has a bigger role, having lost weight and enjoying her life in a new school after she's bullied out of her old one, and her success is contrasted with Oliver's immature victim complex. In the film she's not shown again after her bullying brings Jordana and Oliver together, and Oliver never gets comeuppance for his actions.
  • The Cameo: Executive Producer Ben Stiller has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo.
  • Character Development:
    • Jordana becomes slightly more sympathetic to others following her mother's tumour. This causes Oliver to distance himself from her.
    • Advertisement:
    • Oliver himself becomes more conscious of the people around him by the end.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Graham, a psychic who thinks he can see colors in everyone's personality.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Played with. The film has the typical arc of a coming of age story, with a teenage protagonist who gets his first girlfriend, and has some adventures, but he ends the movie with less self-assurance and sense of place in the world than he had the beginning. Oliver certainly seems to think he's the star of a coming of age story.
    Oliver: I'm not sure if I've come of age, but I definitely feel older.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Oliver.
  • Cringe Comedy: Most of the comedy comes from intentionally awkward, stilted scenes.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Jordana formally breaks up with Oliver via a letter informing him that she's seeing someone else.
  • '80s Hair: Surprisingly averted for a film set in The '80s. Most of the characters have long, straight hair more befitting the 2010s. The only exception is Graham, who has a spectacular mullet.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Oliver sees his mother behaving suspiciously with Graham, and quickly pulls Jordana into a kiss so he can simultaneously hide and spy on his mother. She doesn't realize the reasoning behind it and makes fun of him for spontaneously yelling "Kiss me!" at her.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Subverted; the first scene at the beach seems like this, but Jordana will freely admit to not loving Oliver. Although the "Hiding Tonight" sequence shows some shades of this, as when Jordana gives Oliver a Longing Look when he's not looking.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: A central motif. The pyromaniac Jordana is strongly associated with fire, while Oliver and his father are associated with water, symbolizing depression and emotional distance. Scene transitions where Oliver is close to Jordana are given a red filter, while ones where he's not have a blue filter. Jordana's fire livens up Oliver's life, but they're not very compatible, fitting with the symbolism. The film also has a lot of shots of flame next to the ocean.
  • Genius Book Club: Oliver gives Jordana his three favorite books so she can get to know him better. They are "Shakespeare's most adult play, more mature than Hamlet", a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, and The Catcher in the Rye. All mark him as a smart and well-read kid, as well as a pretentious twat.
  • Gilligan Cut: After Jordana kisses Oliver and tells him she plans on distributing the pictures over the school, she tells him "Now there's conclusive proof that you're maybe not gay." Cue immediate cut to a scene the next day with a crowd of people chanting "gaylord" in a circle around Oliver while Mark demands Oliver admit that he's gay.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first half of the movie involves the development of Oliver's romance with Jordana. The second half involves him investigating his mother's infidelity, and the plots have little to do with each other.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Oliver's parents never really yell at or seriously get mad at him, even when he does pretty objectionable stuff like spying on them, or breaking into and vandalizing a neighbor's house while heavily intoxicated.
  • Heroic BSoD: Oliver, after breaking up with Jordana.
  • Ignored Confession: Subverted. Jill just assumes Oliver is joking when he tells her he has a girlfriend.
  • Inner Monologue: The film is narrated by Oliver talking to himself.
  • Jerkass: Almost everyone in the movie, with the exceptions of Llyod and Zoe.
    • Jordana, even after her Character Development; Oliver states that she likes to bully "in moderation" despite not being popular herself. She's a lot less so in the novel. She may be considered a Jerk with a Heart of Gold... Well, not a golden heart, perhaps, but a softer side. The scene where Oliver has an "early Christmas" dinner with her family shows her tender side, first by hugging her upset father and later showing some emotion to Oliver, hugging him first. When Oliver breaks up with her, it's also obvious how hurt she is by him.
    • Oliver, already one from the start, takes a level in Jerkass later on, when he's the one pushing Jordana away when she needs him.
    • Chips is a much straighter example, a school bully with no redeeming features.
  • Kids Play Matchmaker: Oliver is trying to keep his parents from splitting up, and resorts to things like spying on his mother and monitoring his parents' sex life to do so. His efforts do pay off in the end.
  • Lady in Red: Jordana wears a bright red coat; see Red Oni, Blue Oni below.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: Oliver is convinced his mother is cheating on his father, so he hides and listens in on the second phone line to all his mothers' phone calls. He discovers that she has some kind of relationship with Graham, and starts stalking them based on the information he retrieves from these calls.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Oliver muses during one scene that, in a film of his life, he'd want the camera following him as he walks away, but all he could afford would probably be a zoom-out. Cue a hilariously clunky zoom-out.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Jordana is somewhat of a Manic Pixie Jerkass early in the movie to the introspective and inward Oliver; Jerkass in that her influence isn't necessarily positive, such as his joining in on Zoe's bullying because it entertains Jordana. Subverted in that most males want the MPDG to reciprocate their feelings; Oliver breaks up with Jordan when he's worried she'll get too "gooey." Oliver is interested in her as long as she's livening up his life, but once he sees some depth and realizes that she has feelings and a personality too, he loses interest, which could be something of a deconstruction of the trope.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Jordana, according to her. Oliver comments to himself that he doesn't think she's as good as blackmail as she likes to think.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Jordana Hates Being Touched and shrugs off Oliver's attempts at putting his arm around her. After he meets her ill mother, however, she's seen hugging her upset father, and afterwards she shocks Oliver when she initiates a hug — showing how much she needs him and making it hurt all the worse when he breaks up with her for that exact reason.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Oliver and Jordana's relationship starts with her kissing him and distributing photos of the act to the whole school in order to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. It doesn't really work, and Jordana ends up sticking with Oliver instead.
  • Pet the Dog: Chips does at least try and defend Oliver when he's being harassed by Jordana's ex. Tragically, it doesn't go very far.
  • Playing Gertrude: Sally Hawkins was only 34 when the film was made, a bit young to be the mother of a teenager, especially given the bourgeois setting.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: Jordana's ex-boyfriend cheating on her with another girl in class causes her to get with Oliver as revenge, kicking off the romance plot between them.
  • Present-Day Past: Set in the eighties, but the fashions and themes exploring intentional insincerity are more fitting for a 2010's hipster style. Only the technology really fits with, or particularly needs the setting.
  • Pyromaniac: Jordana loves burning things, and her red coat channels this.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: Before Their First Time, Oliver does the uncharacteristically romantic gesture of sprawling in a sexy pose on his parents' bed, covered in rose petals and with a side of balloons. This fit of sentimentality enrages Jordana and she storms off, refusing to sleep with him, though Oliver eventually coaxes her back.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The capricious Jordana is a Pyromaniac and dresses in red; introverted, thoughtful Oliver is surrounded by blue and images of water. This becomes important later in the film, where Oliver can tell that Jordana read his note because of her red markings.
  • Sex as a Rite-of-Passage: Oliver makes it a goal to lose his virginity and clearly sees this as a key part of his coming of age narrative. After doing the deed, he's no more mature, and it doesn't advance his relationship. Subverted with Jordana— she's only willing to sleep with him after he tells her she should just "get itnote  over with", avoiding the meaning and ritual usually associated with the event.
  • Shout-Out: Graham's persona is reminiscent of Tom Cruise's from Magnolia.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Oliver has quite a inflated opinion of himself, as shown from his opening daydream where he imagines that his death would result in such a massive devastation across the whole country that it would result in a Christ-like funeral before his "glorious resurrection".
  • Stalking Is Love: Oliver, although he just stalks anyone that interests him.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Oliver starts stalking Graham because he's convinced he's sleeping with Oliver's mother.
  • Their First Time: Oliver and Jordana lose their virginity together, in accordance with the goal Oliver sets for himself in his inner monologue.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: Set in The '80s, made in the 2010's.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jordana calls Oliver out for being insensitive by not visiting her mother in the hospital, first sarcastically in a break-up letter, and then to his face.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Oliver certainly seems to think so.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Oliver thinks of his life in terms of film tropes, but he's always wrong about his role in the story and what is about to happen.
    • When he confronts Jordana after they've broken up, he says "This is the part where you leave him, and come with me," while she just stares at him.
    • Oliver imagines an artsy scene where he meets Jordana on the beach, only to find an Identical Stranger in her place. The scene plays out for real just as he imagined it, except that it really is Jordana. Oliver proceeds to waste his first encounter with her in a long time sputtering about how reality didn't match his expectations.