Set against the dazzling Australian heat during a hot and humid summer, Submerge is the deceptively complex story of Jordan; a keen history student and aspiring Olympic swimmer, as her desires for her university tutor Angie leads her down a road of fetish, drugs and chaos that begin to become her downfall.
Played by Lily Hall, Jordan is an intriguing and well written character, forced to juggle a heavy work load with a rigorous training regime and a series of complex relationships that soon has her buckling under the pressure. The chemistry between Jordan and her tutor Angie (Christina Hallett) is palpable and what begins as amorous gazes and innocent flirting soon finds its way to the bedroom in the first of many gloriously smouldering sex scenes. Problematic of course because Angie has a man to go back to; Cameron, a man that also happens to be working closely with Jordan on an academic project at the university. The naivety of Jordan soon becomes apparent at a faculty party where, confronted by Angie and Cameron together she turns to drugs and the no-strings thrills of Delilah; a sexy fetish club owner that plans to open her up to a world of new experiences.
Submerge began life as what the director Sophie O’Connor affectionately referred to as ‘lesbian erotica’, a short film script that centred around Jordan, Angie and Delilah; a lust triangle of sorts within which a youthful Jordan explored her sexuality and desires. Fleshed out as a feature and given more emotional weight, the narrative does suffer from seemingly trying to squeeze too much into the story. It can be difficult to keep up as many essential scenes seem truncated whereas superfluous extended musical interludes and montages take up too much screen time . The third act especially seems to bombard us with sudden plot developments that overlap and intertwine but don’t necessarily fit together as well as they could do; the drugs tests, the desperation fuelled visits to fetishists, the attempts by Cameron to win Angie back and his confrontation with Jordan’s bisexual best friend Lucas. Neither idea is explored as much as it could be, and it’s difficult to frame the action within any kind of time-line. I feel that, while the supporting characters provide some great context and allow us to further understand the situations the protagonist finds herself in, I would have liked the film to have given more attention to her relationships with Angie and Lucas .
But first-time film-maker Sophie O’Connor shows us that she knows how to handle character driven drama and draws great performances from Lily Hall and the beautiful Christina Hallet. While the narrative may lose it’s way from time to time and some story elements work much better than others, this is nonetheless an accomplished début film that does draw the audience into the desires, struggles and experiences of Jordan.