“Am I still a twin if my twin is dead?” — a question posed by the protagonist of Rachel Tunnard’s debut feature, Adult Life Skills. The question succinctly sums up the film’s central thesis into what makes us whole; specifically when someone we love so dearly feels like they are a part of our being. Thankfully, such heavy questions are complimented with large dollops of humour, thanks to Tunnard’s witty script which is infused with as much playfulness as it is with existential insight.
Anna, played by Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch), is struggling to come to terms with the death of her twin brother. Nearing thirty and withdrawing into her shell, Anna lives in her mum’s garden shed and contents herself with making humorous adventure videos using her thumbs as central characters. Her insular life is at odds with most people around her; her mother is constantly trying to push her out of the nest, and her best friend has a vivacious personality that bubbles and froths against the grain. The exception is Clint (Ozzy Myers), an eight-year-old whose mum is terminally ill. His character provides the metaphorical mirror in which Anna sees herself.
Tunnard’s screenplay manages the difficult task of balancing humour with domestic anguish and provides Jodie Whittaker with ample opportunity to show her acting chops … of which she has plenty. Cinematographer Bet Rourich has done a commendable job of visually contrasting a rich array of personalities against the wonderfully earthy and damp backdrop of northern England. It’s a contrast that provides the perfect visual companion to its sometimes touching and sometimes hilarious moments.
Adult Life Skills maintains its independent flavour but rescues itself from becoming excessively twee by drawing on allegories and metaphors that stop short of unnecessarily explaining themselves. Clint presents Anna with a conundrum, unaware that it perfectly illustrates her own life. Anna asks “So what’s the answer?” to which Clint responds “There isn’t one. It’s one of them questions, but you have to think about [it]”. The film leaves you with Clint’s vague response and moves on. As such, Adult Life Skills is a surprisingly deep film that endorses journeys and processes rather than destinations and answers.
You can see the published review here.