British actor Richard Ayoade (The I.T. Crowd
, The Mighty Boosh
) makes a stylish debut as a writer-director in this adaptation of Joe Dunthorne's novel about an intellectual, self-obsessed Welsh teen (Craig Roberts, who could not look more like he'd stepped out of Harold and Maude
if he'd been cloned from that film's star, Bud Cort) stumbling through his first romance with an equally dark classmate (Yasmin Page) while trying to save his parents' (Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins) faltering marriage from interloping motivational speaker Paddy Considine. Set in an indeterminate period around the 1980s, Ayoade's use of New Wave-type edits, montage and hand-held camera evokes the likes of Hal Ashby and Wes Anderson, and a sequence where Roberts and Page play with some fireworks is one of the sweetest evocations of young romance on screen in a while. However, there's a certain coldness to the film, both in its protagonist and setting, that leaves it feeling a bit distant and holds it back from the emotional impact of its inspirations. Submarine
has sequences that linger in the memory, but its affection for its characters never blossoms into actual warmth.