Oliver Tate is frustratingly close to being an anagram of OLIVETTI. It’s also the name of the central protagonist of the 2010 U.K. comedy Submarine (written and directed by Richard Ayoade, and based on the best-selling novel by Joe Dunthorne).

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The blurb on the DVD cover says it’s a mixture of quirk and cool, which is true, not least because 15-year-old Welsh schoolboy Oliver (Craig Roberts) uses an Olivetti Lettera 22 to write love notes to his girlfriend Jordana (Yasmin Paige) …

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Oliver also writes fake love letters (on behalf of his unsuspecting father) to his mother Jill (Sally Hawkins) in a misguided attempt to save his parents’ marriage …

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Several large Olivetti typewriters are glimpsed briefly in the Council Legal & Democratic Services Department where Jill works …

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… and Oliver’s father, Lloyd (Noah Taylor) an ex-marine biologist, has an Olympia SM9/SM8 on his desk, although we never get to see it close-up …

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A sensitive boy (his reading list includes Nietzsche) Oliver analyses why he’s the victim of bullying, but at the same time participates in bullying in order to impress classmate Jordana who, he’s noticed, gets a mild sadistic pleasure out of watching other kids being victimised.

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The ploy works and Jordana becomes Oliver’s girlfriend, but when Jordana’s tells him that her mum has a brain tumour and may not have long to live, he lacks the maturity or the courage to be able to cope with it and shows more interest in saving his parents’ marriage than he does in helping Jordana through her family crisis.

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I didn’t quite get the submarine metaphor, other than the fact that being trapped in awkward adolescence is perhaps analogous to being trapped in a submersible machine.

Had the director been a typewriter nerd (in addition to being Maurice Moss the archetypal computer nerd) he might have considered casting a German Torpedo in the leading typewriter role. Instead we get a Torpedo box of matches, which Oliver gives to fellow arsonist Jordana as a gift (they enjoy setting light to things, not in a destructive way, but in a creative and small-scale way) …

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Submarine is basically the story of a schoolyard romance. It’s not a bad directorial debut by Ayoade, but for more quirk and much more cool, check out his 2013 follow up movie The Double. It’s everything the DVD cover says it is, and more …

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