Adult Life Skills
Rachel Tunnard’s Adult Life Skills tackles the eternal problem that many of us face when approaching our 30s; the problem of having to grow up and become a functional member of society.
The film follows Anna (Jodie Whittaker) who is days away from her 30th birthday and struggling a lot with life in general. She is struggling to deal with the death of her twin and has isolated herself by living in the garden shed.
Isolation becomes one of the central themes of the film as Anna is on a really self destructive path that continues to spiral throughout the narrative. Her situation is made worse by the pressure that comes from her mother Marion (Lorraine Ashbourne) to move out of the shed into her own place and actually behave like an adult.
As you might expect the pressure doesn’t help matters at all and only contributes to the self imposed madness that Anna suffers from. This is ultimately a story about a woman grieving and not getting the necessary support she needs to process that grief. A lot of that is brought on by herself as she refuses to accept help from anyone but the story is from her perspective and the pressure she receives from a mother that doesn’t understand feels really claustrophobic.
Her Nan, Jean (Eileen Davies) does what she can to support Anna through this difficult period but the influence of Marion is too strong for her to be much use. She also comes across as something of an off the wall older relative which makes her less reliable as a source of advice to anyone. Family dysfunction is a massive element in this film and it comes across really well through these three characters.
Jodie Whittaker is great as Anna. Right from the beginning she comes across as likeable and someone who is easy to relate to. The way she conveys the grief and general aimlessness that defines her character works wonderfully and she never stops being someone to root for throughout the film. I was completely invested in Anna’s story and wanted her to find some kind of inner piece.
Anna is a really endearing character as well. She suffers from problems that many in their 20s have to deal with such as not having any clean clothes or running late for everything despite the best intentions. Her aimless wandering through life speaks to a very modern problem that many on the fringes of what some would consider adulthood face.
Her creative streak was nice to see with her contextualising her feelings through making films with her thumbs about two astronauts on a collision course with the Sun with no hope of escape. It is a fairly obvious metaphor for what the film is trying to put across but it’s entertaining and tells us a lot about Anna.
I found the Marion character to be very 1 dimensional but Lorraine Ashbourne does a great job as the stern mother figure that doesn’t approve of how her daughter lives her life. She lacks depth certainly but her role in the film is clear and it comes across well.
Another relationship that works well in the film is Anna and her best friend Fiona (Rachael Deering). In many ways Alice represents what Anna should be like -at least as far as her mother is concerned- and acts as a constant reminder of what adulthood could look like for her. It’s clear that they have drifted apart as friends but there is plenty of affection there and perhaps a little resentment. The film does beat the audience over the head with the fact that Alice thinks her life has turned out great but the point is well made.
The most interesting relationship here is Anna’s unlikely friendship with a young child named Clint (Ozzy Myers). Anna has to look after Clint a lot because his mother is in hospital dying of cancer and their interactions help Anna contextualise her grief because she sees the same thing happening to Clint. Their interactions are really well done and have plenty of depth to them as well as a tragic edge.
At times the film does try a little to hard to tug on the heart strings and there are a couple of characters who feel a little unnecessary. Some of the sentimentality is genuine enough and really effective as a result but the story can go a little too far with that in an attempt to make a point. It doesn’t happen often but it is definitely there.
An interesting film with excellent performances from the actors involved. The themes of growing up, family dysfunction and grief causing isolation are really well developed while blending nicely together. At times there is a tendency to be overly sentimental but in general the film accomplishes what it sets out to do.
- excellent performances
- a sophisticated blending of the themes
- strong characterisation
- the film being overly sentimental at points
- some unnecessary characters