Adult Life Skills (4 stars)

Adult Life Skills

EIFF 2016: Rachel Tunnard’s witty and emotionally authentic debut boasts bags of character

A ‘life sucks’ comedy bobbing along on an undercurrent of palpable pain, what might at first seem overzealously quirky, quickly reveals itself to be something rather special. Adult Life Skills belies its homemade, careworn feel to present both a polished rib-tickler and a credible, intimate study of grief. Rachel Tunnard’s shrewd, sweary debut (which she has directed, written and edited with aplomb) is terrifically, impossibly British and almost ashamed of its smarts, with classical references and astute observation modestly paired with pratfalls and dick jokes.

An expansion of Tunnard’s award-winning short, Emotional Fusebox, it’s the story of Anna (Jodie Whittaker) – a young woman deep in crisis as she approaches her 30th birthday. Brought low by the loss of her twin and creative comrade Billy (Edward Hogg), sheְ’s been living in the garden shed, a fact that’s driving her mother Marion (Lorraine Ashbourne) potty. Anna’s melancholy existence is enlivened by forays into filmmaking, as well as interactions with soft-voiced admirer Brendan (terrific work from Brett Goldstein), troubled youngster Clint (a likeably sardonic performance from first-timer Ozzy Myers) and her exuberant bestie Fiona (Rachael Deering).

Whittaker is superb as a woman whose propensity for silliness is being smothered by her anguish, while Sightseers’ Eileen Davies (as Anna’s salty nan) and Alice Lowe are not above a spot of comedic scene-stealing. Although the romance takes a welcome backseat, Brendan is so adorable, and so amusingly portrayed, you’ll be rooting for him throughout. Tunnard, Whittaker and Deering are old pals and, if Adult Life Skills is unafraid of surrendering its affability when things get ugly, you can simultaneously sense the love, while the attention to detail is astonishing. It’ll win you over with its whimsy, then floor you with its sincerity.

Screening on Sat 18 and Sun 19 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. Selected release from Fri 24 Jun.

Adult Life Skills

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • UK
  • 1h 36min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Rachel Tunnard
  • Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein
  • UK release: 24 June 2016

Anna (Whittaker) is a filmmaker bereft after the death of her twin and creative partner Billy (Hogg), and who now lives in her mother's garden shed. It's a shrewd, sweary, polished rib-tickler as well as a credible, intimate study of grief, and although Goldstein is adorable as Anna's admirer, romance for once takes a…