A film is a complex machine of moving parts, and the best built don’t creak but turn smoothly, keeping mechanical secrets veiled and showing only the fictional world they seek to create. Adult Life Skills is such a film.
Rachel Tunnard has seemingly bottled reality and poured it forth on screen; the living, breathing characters pull the viewer in headfirst. Protagonist Anna feels like someone you might have known at school, or an urban legend your grandmother might relay. Yet she’s so well written that she convinces as a friend whose corner you’d fight, united against her nagging mother (Ashbourne), while simultaneously quietly fretting about what’s to become of her. Jodie Whittaker’s hilarious and endearing performance provokes this complex relationship of audience to character, a major contributor to the script’s appeal.
The plethora of well-chosen cultural references will be irresistible to anyone of a similar age (the ‘teenage night out’ skit may feel borrowed from your memories) and the very British sense of humour creates some hysterical running gags.
Yet Adult Life Skills is far from being purely comedic. Tunnard exhibits supreme command of her material; Anna’s grief is unceasingly respected, and this sadness at the core of the character is juggled flawlessly with her witty and often deliciously smutty wisecracking.
It isn’t quite the film it looks like, but it’s even better. Relationships from siblinghood to friendship and even pseudo-motherhood, an emerging ‘adult life skill’ for Anna, are portrayed with warmth and intelligence.
Adult Life Skills is a masterclass of dramatised family dynamics, bantering dialogue, apparently conflicting tones, and cathartic character arcs. Rachel Tunnard has something to say about the human condition, and Jodie Whittaker will make you sit up and pay attention.
CAST: Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachael Deering
DIRECTOR: Rachel Tunnard
WRITER: Rachel Tunnard
SYNOPSIS: Anna is stuck: she’s approaching 30, living like a hermit in her mum’s garden shed and wondering why the suffragettes ever bothered.