Written and directed by Rachel Tunnard, Adult Life Skills is a beautifully bittersweet story that tells the tale of Anna (Jodie Whittaker), a nearly-30-something who’s living in the garden shed at the end of her Mum’s garden.
Anna offers up a somewhat dishevelled figure, spending her momentary time making a short film using her thumbs with faces drawn on as the actors in a space escapade. The thumbs are two different characters with one being a worrier about how they’ll die and the other keeping the facts straight. The only problem is she’s doing this alone and her Mum (Lorraine Ashbourne) is becoming increasingly frustrated with actions and recommends she moves out but Anna is less than enamoured with this plan.
Outside of the shelter of her shed, she works at a local water sports centre for young kids and it also becomes gradually clear that the reason for her unusual, distracted behaviour is because her brother, who was her twin, has recently died. Adult Life Skills skilfully balances the fine line between deep sadness and positivity, although the underlying subject is one of loss this film isn’t a depressing outlook on life. The clever realisation of this comes from both the natural writing and Jodie Whittaker with another wonderful performance. Believable is an easy word to use, because it’s true, but Whittaker also pushes past brilliant as she heads out there wholehearted and filled with conviction for both Anna’s struggle and her deep-seated desire to change something, even when she doesn’t know where to start. Tunnard’s film also deals with the tension and desperation that exists in a family after a loved one dies and although we never specifically learn how her brother passed away, it’s very clear that Anna has been struggling for a couple of years since he died.
There are delectable, deft touches of real emotion here among all characters and it’s important to mention that even outside of Anna’s bubble her Mum and Gran, played by Lorraine Ashbourne and Eileen Davies, bring a solid reality with strong performances. One of the other stand-out stars is young Ozzy Myers who plays 7-year-old Clint, the young lad from next door who’s dealing with a family crisis of his own but also has a part to play in Anna’s struggles. Special mentions as well go to Alice Lowe in a co-starring role, Rachael Deering as Fiona and the subtly smart Brett Goldstein.
Adult Life Skills resonated with me naturally because it’s sad, sincere and genuine with an optimistic light shimmering underneath. Out there in the cosmos, or just here on Earth, it’s for anyone who’s lost something or someone and well worth exploring.
4/5 – Adult Life Skills is in UK cinemas on Friday 24 June.
Adult Life Skills review by Dan Bullock, June 2016 originally published on The Hollywood News.