Movie Review: “Adult Life Skills”

In 2016, writer/director Rachel Tunnard’s “Adult Life Skills” won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Now, in 2019, the film finally is being released in theaters and on demand here in the United States (it is a British movie and saw a release in the UK in 2016).  Although sometimes movies take so long to be released due to their quality, that is not the case here – “Adult Life Skills” is an intriguing movie, made all the better for the work of its lead, Jodie Whittaker.

Perhaps the release is finally happening here due to Whittaker’s rising career.  Although known in 2016, she has greater reach and acclaim now that she has taken the mantle of The Doctor on long-running series, “Doctor Who.”  Whatever the case may be, Whittaker is outstanding in this film as a woman on the verge of turning 30 who, after some upsetting life events, has moved into the shed behind her mother’s house.

Tunnard’s movie follows Whittaker’s Anna as she struggles with her approaching birthday, her overbearing mother (played by Lorraine Ashbourne), her well-meaning grandmother (played by Eileen Davies), friends, and a boy named Clint (Ozzy Myers) whom she is forced to supervise at her job at a boating club.  Anna may be surrounded by loved ones—her mother certainly wants the best for her daughter even if she doesn’t always approaching it in the most beneficial of fashions—but Anna is stuck.

Clint, who is going through his own issues with his mother being ill, insists on hanging around even when he is not wanted and, predictably, forms a friendship with Anna. It is a touching, sweet, relationship, even if it is all too formulaic.

In fact there is little about “Adult Life Skills” that is not formulaic.  As we learn more about the causes of Anna’s upset, we certainly feel for her, but Tunnard’s movie does not do a great job expanding beyond what is expected of such a tale into new and different areas.  From start to finish it plays out almost exactly as a viewer would anticipate.

And yet, the movie is better than its well-worn premise.  This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that while we may never have gone through Anna’s exact troublres, they are still quite relatable.  More important for the film, however, is the fact that Whittaker, through both her humor and her dramatic capabilities, is able to elevate the entire affair.  She is a captivating presence whether Anna is joking around at work, fighting back too hard against her mother, or pushing Clint away in a manner everyone knows will backfire.

The movie is a showcase for Whittaker’s talents, as she not only does the above, but also beautifully depicts up Anna’s creating video projects.  These involve, amongst other things, having little faces drawn on her thumbs and filming the thumbs as they carry on conversations on a multitude of issues.

The videos are, beyond a doubt, the best portions of the film.  They offer an insight into Anna and her circumstances that provide added depth in wonderfully humorous fashion.   They are some of the most poignant moments and, as silly as they sound, Tunnard and Whittaker make them touching in a way one might not expect. By the time the credits roll, while one may have had enough of Anna’s story, the want of more of her videos will linger.

Whether you seek it out because Jodie Whittaker is The Doctor, because she tells a great tale with her thumbs, or you simply want to watch a small, touching film, “Adult Life Skills,” despite its more treacly moments, is worth it.

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photo credit: Screen Media



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