Adult Life Skills
dir-scr Rachel Tunnard
prd Michael Berliner
with Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachael Deering, Eileen Davies, Ozzy Myers, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, David Anderson, Christian Contreras, Andrew Buckley
release US Apr.16 tff, UK 8.Jul.16
16/UK 1h36
Adult Life Skills
All thumbs: Whittaker

sw sw sw
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Adult Life Skills Quirky to the point of distraction, this is an oddly cute comedy-drama about the wrenching effects of grief. But the script is so indulgent that very little about the film feels even remotely believable. At least it's beautifully photographed by Bet Rourich. And the performances have a raw authenticity that's lacking in the situations.

As her 30th birthday approaches, the free-spirited Anna (Whittaker) is living in a garden shed, while her mother Marion (Ashbourne) begs her to move back into the house or to a place of her own. Anna works with the flighty Alice (Lowe) and her overpowering best pal Fiona (Deering) at a children's club, bantering with local too-nice local guy Brendan (Goldstein), whom everyone assumes is gay. She also befriends one of the children, the cowboy-obsessed Clint (Myers). But her approaching birthday is reminding her how much she misses her twin brother Billy (Hogg).

The film has an improvised, handmade design that's likeable if implausible. Anna makes quirky videos starring her thumbs as astronauts voyaging past foil stars. These clips are amusing but feel created by a filmmaker rather than a slacker living in a garden shed. Her grief over the death of her brother is equally artificial, played as an adorable plot point as his image appears to her in snorkelling gear before their private jokes shift jarringly to intense emotion. Frankly, it feels rather glib, especially as Marion's grief is never glimpsed at all.

That said, the acting is very strong. Against all odds, Whittaker makes the deeply annoying Anna rather likeable, earning the audience's sympathy as she reluctantly moves forward with her life. Each plot point may come far too suddenly, but Whittaker's reactions are earthy and emotionally resonant. Ashbourne is also solid in a rather difficult role, while Goldstein and Deering veer dangerously close to caricature as Anna's kooky friends, but emerge as intriguing people in the end.

Writer-director Tunnard is clearly making some sort of autobiographical statement here, mixing dark emotions with a lively surreal parable. The problem is that the line between gritty reality with flights of fantasy is very difficult to depict on screen. An inhumanly skilled filmmaker like Charlie Kaufman can pull this off, but Tunnard's movie ends up looking both too silly and overly mawkish. Still, there are moments of genius that offer promise for whatever she does next.

cert 15 themes, language 11.Apr.16

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Adult Life Skills Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall