Reviewed by: Jane Fae

"It is, overall, pretty vanilla both in content and presentation."

Submerge is a slight but engaging drama about life, lust and relationships within the world of the Australian Academy.

Jordan (Lily Hall) is an undergrad student, seeking to enlighten herself about ancient civilisations. In between lectures, and assignments, she is attempting to break through in the world of competitive swimming. In these efforts, she is alternately hindered and cheered on by bi flatmate and young Lothario, Lucas (Kevin Dee), and her ambitious/pushy mother, who is never off the phone, exhorting her to train harder, do better.

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Exhorting? Not quite. As far as her mother is concerned, Jordan’s future lies in the water and if that means deferring her university course for a year, so be it.

This, though, Jordan is reluctant to do. For not only is she in love with her subject but she is falling for one of her lecturers, Angie (Christina Hallett). The latter, though, is in an increasingly dysfunctional relationship with another of her lecturers, Cameron (Andrew Curry).

The stage is set. Throw in some mildly erotic vanilla posing, played out to an accompaniment of a hard driving soundtrack, and we’re off!

“I shouldn’t”, Angie responds coyly, to Jordan’s first advance, mindful, no doubt, of the responsibility implicit in the pupil-teacher bond. But five minutes later, they are in bed and ethics are in the wind.

Another five minutes, and Angie is once more remembering that she really, really is not meant to be doing this. Decisions, decisions. Will Jordan choose history or an aquatic career? Will she drop the swimming, and take the plunge into academia? And what of Delilah (Georgia Bolton), the oh-so-aptly named bad girl/sm dyke whose primary function appears to be to act as Angie-foil/rebound and gateway to the darker side of kink sexuality?

Will Jordan be lured away and into her clutches? Or is this just one more bad idea in what is increasingly looking like a roll call of bad ideas?

This is no Shakespearean tragedy: though if you reckon you can guess the rest of Jordan – and Angie’s – trajectory, reckon again. Suffice to say, there is some kink, and some drugs and a lot of eye-opening for the otherwise innocent Jordan, as well as a cruel ultimatum from her mum, before we find out whether she will crash and burn…or end happily ever after.

There is a certain amount of sex and sexual exploration. Though nothing that you won’t see after the watershed on Channel 4 – or most UK TV nowadays, for that matter. (Oh, all right! It does get just a bit dark towards the end…) Perhaps the most disturbing part of the inevitable couplings is that they seem as much as anything else to reflect a desire on the part of Jordan to punish herself for perceived failings and weaknesses.

Do not be misled, or, indeed, led astray by some of the headier reviews, which talk about this film detailing “a young woman’s descent into decadence” or similar. It is, overall, pretty vanilla both in content and presentation. It is a good solid romantic drama held together well by Lily Hall in the lead role. It has a more than decent soundtrack and it depicts, as most films don’t, some of the ups and downs of trying to negotiate a lesbian relationship within the constraints of everyday life demands and pressures.

Not surprising, therefore, that since its release in 2013, Submerge has been rewarded by being nominated as audience favourite at several Lesbian and Gay film festivals internationally. Thumbs up to director Sophie O’Conner and her co-writer, Kat Holmes, for persevering and taking a risk, and bringing Submerge to fruition.

Available via Lesflicks VoD platform from 25 October.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2020
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Submerge packshot
An swimming student seduces her tutor.

Director: Sophie O'Connor

Writer: Kat Holmes, Sophie O'Connor

Starring: Lily Hall, Christina Hallett, Kevin Dee, Georgia Bolton, Andrew Curry, Kath Gordon, Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez

Year: 2013

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Australia


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