If you’ve ever failed a test of character, this movie’s for you. Submarine is awash with fallibility. This is youth as you don’t normally see it on screen: spots and all. The teenagers are allowed to have acne and eczema, the way they do in real life. Every kind of blemish is relished. Love sits alongside casual cruelty. Friendship is blighted by thousands of betrayals. The setting might be South Wales, but metaphorically, it’s underwater. Like a submarine, the hero spies on the surface world. He’s very awkward on land. Mostly, he’s lonely. He’s funny because he torpedoes his chances of happiness. But we’ve all done that. Anxiety is easily recognised as a sinking feeling.
Dying men are candid because they don’t expect to see us again. It’s their last day at work, so they don’t have to worry about causing offence, or making life awkward for themselves. They can scream if they want to scream; confess undying love; dynamite the unbearable niceties tomorrow enforces on us…and be real, for once. Even if “real” is another way of saying they don’t have to suffer the consequences of life. Deathbed candour is only as revealing as your faith in the supreme “revealing moment”. More likely, we don’t know the truth about ourselves five minutes before we die; instead, we know one truth: without the countdown, we’re all pragmatists.