Adult Life Skills review: two thumbs up for this warm, witty comedy

Quirks and odd characters abound in Rachel Tunnard’s film, which won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca film festival in April

Swede temptation: Jodie Whittaker as Anna in Adult Life Skills. Photograph: Jo Irvine

Film Title: Adult Life Skills

Director: Rachel Tunnard

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachael Deering, Eileen Davies, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Ozzy Myers

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 96 min

Wed, Jun 22, 2016, 14:59


Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is fast approaching 30 and living in a shed at the bottom of her mother’s garden. Instead of a proper job, she mostly “swedes” her favourite movie scenes with tinfoil sets and thumbs with faces painted on. Instead of a home, she has a clubhouse decked out with pun-tastic signs such as “shed Zeppelin” and “Dawn of the Shed”.

Her arrested development, we soon learn, is a consequence of the death of her twin brother, whose imagined ghost (Edward Hogg), appears periodically in snorkelling gear. Her fed-up mum is determined to snap Anna out of her fan-girl solitude. Mother is not alone. Anna’s childhood best mate Fiona (Rachael Deering), lately returned from travels, is determined to “make her smile again”.

Fiona’s arrival coincides with a new set of duties. Anna is forced to babysit an odd little cowboy-obsessed boy called Clint (Ozzy Myers) when his mother is hospitalised. And then there’s Brendan (Brett Goldstein), who keeps trying to ask Anna out, but who invariably says the wrong thing: “How is your period? Don’t ask that. Why would I say that? I only said it because Fiona told me to ask you. She thought you’d be impressed. But it felt wrong. Instinctively.”

This warm, witty feature-length version of a BAFTA-nominated short took home the Nora Ephron Prize from Tribeca last April. In common with many similarly expanded projects, the film can feel a bit overstuffed with characters and quirks. But there’s something genuinely delightful about seeing the female of the sweding species that featured in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Be Kind, Rewind.

Anna shares DNA with the men-children of the Apatow oeuvre and yet Adult Life Skills is a unique specimen. Just as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love approximates what an Adam Sandler character would be like in real life, Rachel Tunnard’s portrait of stunted emotional growth makes one think of a Real Life Will Ferrell character. If that character was a girl. In a shed at the bottom of her mum’s garden.