Film review: Adult Life Skills

by Russell Baillie / 18 June, 2017

Jodie Whittaker as Anna.

Broadchurch’s Beth is terrific in an oddball and sad-hearted comedy.

There’s much that is familiar about Adult Life Skills. The hand-drawn titles, the folky twang of its soundtrack, the twentysomething hero stuck in perpetual adolescence and the alarming array of op-shop knitwear all induce a heavy sense of indie-flick déjà vu even before we’ve got to know the characters.

Fortunately, it’s the characters in this female-centric British tale of arrested development who take it past its calculated quirkiness to deliver an engaging melancholy comedy.

After three seasons as Broadchurch’s grieving mum Beth Latimer, Jodie Whittaker is in mourning again as Anna who, a year-plus after the death of her twin brother, is facing their shared 30th birthday.

She’s still living at home, where she’s taken up residence in the garden shed surrounded by mementoes of the pair’s mutual geekiness.

Otherwise, Anna’s days in glum, rural Yorkshire are spent being nagged by her mother and grandma, working at an outdoor recreation centre and continuing to make the DIY movies that were a consuming hobby for her and her brother.

She remains resistant to her mum’s threats of eviction and potential boyfriend suggestions, but some gentle interventions threaten to crack Anna’s emotional shell.

First, there’s the return of live-wire old school friend (Rachael Deering) from her travels. Second, there’s Clint (Ozzy Myers), the eight-year-old from next door whom Anna recognises as a kindred-spirit oddball.

It’s a film that does risk pushing the whimsy levels into the red, though the death-rattle songs of American folkie Micah P Hinson offer a grim counterpoint.

It’s the terrific Whittaker, though, who gives the movie its considerable heart. She also played Anna in director Tunnard’s 2014 Bafta-winning short, Emotional Fuse Box, effectively a prototype for Adult Life Skills. Second time around, the film is a charmer.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★1/2

This article was first published in the June 10, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


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