Are you 30? Almost 30? Beyond 30? Not even close to 30 but still dreading it? Chances are, if you’re at least within the vicinity of the big 3-0, you are familiar with the negative stigma that surrounds its impending arrival. There’s just something about officially living 3 decades on Earth that really makes you put your life into perspective. But why is there so much dread that encompasses leaving behind your 20s? Why does 30 still carry the burdensome mark of true adulthood and expected social maturity? In “Adult Life Skills”, British filmmaker Rachel Tunnard’s feature directorial debut, we are presented with a unique perspective regarding this stunted adulthood concept. It’s a familiar kind of millennial story but told in a rustic, quirky, messy yet lovable way. This is a story for any twenty-something year old that is terrified of the future, still holding onto their past, and constantly living in a present that seems devoid of any real purpose. Welcome to being an adult, ladies and gentlemen.
Anna (played by a relatable Jodie Whittaker) has reached an impasse. She’s almost 30 and has just moved back home to her rural, middle-of-nowhere hometown. Living in her mother’s shed in the backyard while working a small, menial job at a seaside boating facility, Anna continues to hole up within her own imagination, making short films with her thumbs and irritating her mother by seemingly not wanting to move on with her life. Tragedy, specifically the passing of her twin brother years before, has forcibly held Anna back in the past, stunning her into a sort of paralyzed emotional aging cycle. The loss of something cherished she once shared with her brother sends things into a further downward spiral. It’s not until she starts befriending Clint, a troubled young boy in the area, that the two unlikely pals form a bond that reaches across the age spectrum, opening Anna’s eyes to a future that might not be so bad. Is it possible to merge past, present and future in a way that is just…okay? Not terrifying and not perfect, but totally doable?
“Adult Life Skills” is actually the expanded, feature length version of Tunnard’s popular BAFTA-nominated short film, “Emotional Fuse Box”. And now winner of the Nora Ephron Prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, there may be a bright future ahead for this up-and-coming British filmmaker. Her feature may tell a familiar story, but the whimsical touches she sprinkles on happen to spark into a delightfully fiery mix, with bits and pieces of dreaminess, darkness, wit and drama. It’s messy, but isn’t that life? Anna’s absurd little “thumb movies” aside, this is a film about growing up despite everything life takes from you as well as never gives you. We are all constantly trying to find ourselves and it’s never as easy or prepackaged as we want it to be. And as Tunnard shows us: that’s half the fun of it all.
If you're lucky enough to be based in the UK, you can now catch this late bloomer coming of age indie on several VOD platforms. For all of us in the US, the trailer (and a rewatch of "Emotional Fusebox") will have to suffice for now!