Adult Life Skills, 2016.
Written and Directed by Rachel Tunnard.
Starring Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Rachel Deering, Brett Goldstein, Eileen Davies, Ozzy Myers and Alice Lowe.
Anna is stuck: she’s approaching 30, living like a hermit in her mum’s garden shed and wondering why the suffragettes ever bothered.
Here I go again on my own, going down the only road I’ll ever know. The lyrics of 1980’s rock band Whitesnake there, sung by many millions in concert halls, festivals and yes even out of car windows. Badly. But those first few lines of power ballad goodness as particularly resonant for director Rachel Tunnard’s feature debut Adult Life Skills, mainly as they feature heavily over the closing credits and are mentioned in the film, but those powerful words are particularly apt as they are the summation of the film.
Anna (Whittaker) is the adult in question when it comes to her lack of adult skills: stunted in her life after the tragic death of her twin she has become detached with everything and everyone to such a degree that she has even semi-disowned her Mum (Ashbourne) and Nan (Davies) by vacating the house to take up residence in the small shed that resides in the garden. Now approaching her 30th birthday, those few friends and family she has left has reached the end of their tether with her, having to forcibly move her kicking and screaming into fully-fledged adulthood.
The biggest problem with Adult Life Skills is that despite the winning performances, spirited and effervescent direction of Tunnard and its vibrant score, we have been here many times before. Whether it’s here or over the pond, the film plays out in a rather contented way, at ease with being somewhat generic and by-the-numbers without any real interest in stretching the story out a little making it feel more hour-long comedy-drama television than a fully-formed feature. That said, Tunnard’s script has plenty to keep the attention mixing the funnies with the heart to good effect as well as some inspired in-film films involving fingers, thumbs and a lot of sticky-back plastic that will make you smile for days.
Whittaker, who has been on many people’s radar since her superb debut in 2009’s Venus opposite Peter O’ Toole, once again proves herself as one of the best young talents in British cinema of recent years. By some people’s standard’s she should have “made it big” by now, but such is the actresses hunger for richer characters and stories that she has stayed, for the most part, on home turf. Adult Life Skills is the sort of vehicle and performance that could change that such is the brilliance of Whittaker’s turn. Ably supported by Lorraine Ashbourne, Rachael Deering and the superb Eileen Davies, the film’s positives owe at lot to its winning ensemble who are universally excellent.
It may not get out of third gear for most of its runtime but the debut from Rachel Tunnard shows tremendous promise for her future projects. Boasting a warm witty screenplay, as well as a superb central performance from Whittaker, Adult Life Skills is a charming if slight dramedy that will please many.
Adult Life Skills recently screened as part of the Edinburgh Film Festival 2016
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis is a Senior Staff Writer and Roving Reporter for Flickering Myth – Follow him on Twitter