Adult Life Skills
Directed by: Rachel Tunnard
Written by: Rachel Tunnard
Featuring: Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachael Deering, Eileen Davies, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Ozzy Myers
Anna’s life has stalled just before she reaches thirty. Virtually a hermit-like recluse she lives at the bottom of her mum’s garden in a shed. She spends her spare time making videos using her thumbs as characters that bicker with each other even though doesn’t show these videos to anyone. Her mother wants her to move out of the shed and start behaving like a thirty-year-old woman. The reason for Anna’s self-imposed lifestyle hangs over her head and the heads of everyone she knows. When an eight-year-old boy tumbles into her life with his own similar problems everything starts to come to an explosive and cathartic head.
Rachel Tunnard directed and wrote Adult Life Skills originally as a short but eventually, with the help of friends and family, some appear in the film, the short grew into this film.
Oddball and eccentric are two adjectives that I personally like when applied to a film. Certain US filmmakers are good at it but if you want really underplayed, realistic [to a certain point], oddball and eccentric you must come to the UK. Tunnard turns the quirkmeter all the way up to eleven but throughout the film, there was always the feeling of homegrown realism underpinning everything.
Understated realistic acting is needed if you are going for a ‘strange’ story and with Adult Life Skills you have it. All the main actors are familiar to British viewers and with no disrespect meant to them, they are in general the ‘oh that’s wastheirname who was in that thing we saw last month’ rather than that’s – insert name here. This is the film’s great strength. Everyone who acted in the film take a bow.
For instance, well-known comedy face Brett Goldstein plays Brendan to perfection, in all honesty you probably know someone like that but maybe not in such broad strokes yet the skill is he does not seem to be on the screen in broad strokes. It is hard to describe but it is a skill that if not honed correctly takes you out of a story immediately. I’m sure we can all think of a film where the ‘strange quirky’ character is trying too hard to be just that. In particular, the moped scene struck a note of realism with me that had me chuckling for some time after it the film had moved on.
Lorraine Ashbourne is just a mum – that is the best praise I can give.
The glue that holds it all together is unsung British actor Jodie Whittaker. We should see more of her as she plays irritating, strange, lonely, lovely and vulnerable in the space of two minutes throughout the film. This is a role that could very easily annoy the viewer two minutes in. It is to her credit that she doesn’t. Great stuff.
There is no doubt Adult Life Skills will leave many people scratching their heads and puzzled and probably disliking it but it’s charm and overall eccentricity is never grating and the film does tell a difficult and heartful story of coping with the huge roadblocks that life can put in your way. Certainly, the main theme is not a light frothy topic and it is one that has been mishandled and misrepresented many times in past films and stories. The topic is messy, angry, strange and hard to understand.
If Rachel Tunnard keeps on in this vein and tackles other topics in her own style I for one will seek out her work. I recommend you do too.
Quirky, eccentric, misunderstood and moving and that’s not just Brett Goldstein.