EIFF 2016: Adult Life Skills (2016)
Jodie Whittaker stars as Anna, a woman about to turn thirty but spending her days mourning the loss of her twin brother and living in her mother’s shed. She makes little movies featuring her thumbs, she keeps rewatching past videos uploaded on a website that her brother used to maintain, and her job involves exciting tasks like cleaning graffiti and counting molehills. But things start to change when she is tasked with looking after a young boy (Clint, played by Ozzy Myers) for a few hours here and there, watching his way of handling the world and reacting to how he questions her behaviour.
Written and directed by Rachel Tunnard, Adult Life Skills avoids falling into the trap of being just like a hundred other independent comedy dramas thanks to a great script that is loaded with solid one-liners, as well as plenty of wonderful character exchanges. The funnier moments never tip so far into the hilarious that you forget the pain at the heart of the central character, and the more emotional moments pack a surprising punch because of how affecting the lead performances are.
Whittaker is a likable presence throughout, even when verbally lashing out in spite at a confused child. Myers, as that child, is very natural in his turn, and the growing friendship between Clint and Anna feels easy and organic. Lorraine Ashbourne, as Anna’s mother, has to play “the villain” at times, but she’s helped by a script that never forces her to go too far. This is not a film that wants to wallow, despite that being a key aspect of the content. This is a film showing someone avoiding help being offered to them, whether that comes from a child, parent, friend (Rachael Deering brings her energy to the proceedings at just the right time), or a friend who might want to be more (Brett Goldstein, as sweet and lovable here as he was in the excellent Superbob).
There’s not a lot more to say, really. Describing every aspect of this movie could probably convince you that it’s not worth your time. You get the character quirks, you get the light soundtrack, there’s a montage or two. It’s all very familiar. But you also get genuine characters that it’s easy to spend time with, thanks to the script, and you get some fun thumb-centric interludes. And a bit of Whitesnake.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: RACHEL TUNNARD
STARS: JODIE WHITTAKER, LORRAINE ASHBOURNE, BRETT GOLDSTEIN, RACHAEL DEERING, OZZY MYERS
RUNTIME: 96 MINS APPROX