British indie at its finest
This film sums up what we Brits do well – a somewhat melancholic story told with warmth and humour. An unsentimental tale told with compassion. Also, puns. There is so much to love about this film that I suspect I’ll be championing it a long while yet.
Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is one week away from her thirtieth birthday. She works at a nature resort in a middle-of-nowhere part of Northern England, lives in the shed at the end of her mum’s garden and enjoys making films featuring her thumbs with smiley faces on them talking about nihilism. Due to the relatively recent death of her twin brother (Edward Hogg) she can’t face talking about her birthday, yet it seems everyone from mum Marion (Lorraine Ashbourne) and Grandma Jean (Eileen Davies) to her best friend Fiona (Rachael Deering) and Fiona’s sister Alice (Alice Lowe) to the boy who used to annoy her at school Brendan (Brett Goldstein) want to talk about both her Birthday and where her life is going.
Although the setting, the majority of the characters and their circumstances may not initially appear universal they really are. The film acts as a reflection on loss, self-isolation and the struggle to find who you are. Yes, as a 23 year old female that may appear more relevant to me than many others it’s relevant to us all. We all have experienced – be that aged 3, 23, 33,53 or 83 – a loss that derailed us, that either out of choice or not, took us on a course we never intended. Grief lasts far longer than the funeral and for some we wake up years later and look at metaphorically derelict path we ended up on. Anna’s self-loathing may be a concept I am all too aware of through personal experience, yet the battle to regain self-confidence is a ubiquitous challenge many of us have/will face. The fact we see such likeable and familiar-seeming characters facing this in ‘Adult Life Skills’ makes for a deep and visceral experience.
I apologise if the above paragraph made the film sound boring and serious. It really isn’t boring but it is somewhat serious, in terms of its themes not how it is told. It is properly funny quite often and whilst I did cry (I think it was at least three times) I did guffaw at least double that and left the screen grinning.
I loved every single one of the characters. I really felt like Anna became a friend whilst watching the film, she’s so well-rounded both in characterisation and performance. I’ve loved watching Whittaker in everything I’ve seen her in (Good Vibrations is my personal favourite) and her performance her is no exception. Fiona is brilliant as the best friend desperately trying to help her lost friend. Brett Goldstein, who was wonderful in last year’s little known indie flick SuperBob, is just as good here. He is great at playing a logical figure to Anna’s less-than-logical thought processes, providing a truly earnest performance. Pus the man is an expert at eyebrow acting.
‘Adult Life Skills’ is now easily in my top five films of the year so far. Whilst Mother’s Day (click here to read my review) may be filling cinema screens with a national release, profiting on cheap and disingenuous sentiment, it is films like this we should be rooting for. When the film ended it felt like I was saying goodbye to newfound friends. Yesterday’s preview was the first of my many watches of it.