wed 20/09/2017

Adult Life Skills | reviews, news & interviews

Adult Life Skills

Adult Life Skills

Sweet, slightly predictable, quirky British dramedy veers from the norm

Almost 30-something Anna lives in a shed in her mother's gardenJo Irvine

There are often times as adults, that we feel ill-prepared for dealing with situations that arise. There is no equivalent of a Brownie’s badge for “taking responsibility” “progressing the career ladder”, “finding your life partner” or “coping with grief”. But by age 30, somehow, inexplicably, we’re supposed to have it all under control. Rachel Tunnard’s debut feature film departs from this social norm, and takes a look at what happens when the dream is derailed.

Anna is a sub-functional almost 30-year-old living in a shed at the foot of her mother’s garden. She dresses, acts and speaks like a teenager. Cycling to work on a BMX, she sees odd detail in the everyday – the sadness of a lost red shoe, the smiley face on the design of a fence post. This artistic vision spills over into her making of thumb-people videos, who discuss existentialism and Yogi Bear while on a seemingly futile mission in space. But her creativity is tinged by a lingering sadness. 

It quickly transpires that Anna’s penchant for dressing like a “homeless teenager” and living in “Shed Zeppelin” is triggered by more than a simple mid-life crisis. While the reason for her rut is unexpected, the unfolding of the romantic plot, is not. Stereotypes abound in the main love interest, Brendan (Brett Goldstein) who everyone thinks is gay because of his soft voice and novel-writing aspirations. Then there’s best friend Fiona (Rachel Deering) who’s thinner after dysentery while travelling in India and more tanned after Thailand; mum Marion (Lorraine Ashbourne) who asks “why can’t you be more like her?” and eccentric Nan (Eileen Davies) who has an alarmingly filthy mouth.

But the clichés are comforting amidst the searing agony of grief that unravels – for a twin brother, son, grandson and friend. A week before her 30th birthday Anna is given an ultimatum by her mum who until this point has been trying to force haircuts and house moves upon her. This coincides with losing the last remaining link to her recently deceased twin brother – and a visit from said best friend, for a night out on the lash. After some impressive slo-mo nightclub cinematography, fate throws Anna together with a young boy who's fighting battles of his own, equipped with nothing but imaginary pistols and a cowboy hat (pictured below).

Set against the calming backdrop of a non-specific English countryside location, the script veers between crisp and quotable to soft and sometimes, navel gazing. There is some genuine gut-wrenching unease as well as hilarity in the relationships and altercations that unfold. The jokes feel familiar and whimsy that veers too far towards the quaint is alleviated by off-the-wall comedic moments and remarks.

Overall Adult Life Skills is an easy film. It’s predictable and follows a definite, comforting formula. Jodie Whittaker is convincing as awkward Anna, shutting out the world and defying her adult responsibilities. She manages to convey the anxiety of growing into social expectations and the numbness of loss. It’s not about finding a Bridget Jones style of happiness as much as a quintessentially British artistic investigation into the deep, enveloping folds of grief and how we ever find our way out of that shed, to re-emerge into the world where normal people go clubbing, go travelling, get jobs, find flats and have sex. You just can’t help but wonder what the outcome would’ve been if Anna hadn’t, in the end, succumbed. Whittaker's acting capabilities are more than the neatness of the plot allow her.

There is genuine gut-wrenching unease as well as hilarity in the relationships and altercations that unfold

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters