Thursday, April 21, 2016

Talking Tribeca: Adult Life Skills

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 13th-24th.

Adult Life Skills
Directed by Rachel Tunnard
Festival Screenings

There are many things that prevent a person from properly growing up, and context can completely change someone’s understanding of another person’s existence or mental state. When Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is first introduced, she is living in her mother’s shed, which is adorned with antiestablishment puns. Her dead-end job at a local boating center hardly enthralls her, and she aggressively shies away from her looming thirtieth birthday because, for the first time, she won’t be able to celebrate it with her late twin brother, whose loss has all but crippled her.

Though the circumstances are tragic and upsetting, the place in which Anna finds herself at the start of the film paves the way for plenty of endearing humor. Anna’s go-to mode is to seem annoyed or disinterested in just about anything, and she runs from her mother and grandmother anytime they try to ask her a simple question, especially if it involves the topic of doing something productive with her life. Anna continues to make silly movies like the ones she made with her brother, and spends some time socializing with her friend Fiona (Rachael Deering), who has recently returned from being abroad, and budding realtor Brendan (Brett Goldstein). Reluctantly, she begins to look after her young neighbor, Clint (Ozzy Myers), aiding him to cope with his mother’s illness and to work through his anger at the situation.

Characters like Anna have existed in film before many times, and the only thing that makes Anna unique is that she was a twin. Her brother is a regularly-appearing player in the film, showing up in brief flashbacks to moments when Anna was truly happy and then again at points as an encouraging hallucination. His constant presence in her mind and the nagging of her living family members pushes her to stand still while her three friends nudge her to figure out what’s next for her. It’s a truly enjoyable journey that’s also laced with some important and powerful drama.

Whittaker is a wonderful British actress who has delivered terrific performances in films like “Venus,” “Attack the Block,” and “White Wedding,” and she is typically superb here as the unmotivated but still likeable Anna. Deering and Myers are both strong performers as well, but it’s Goldstein who is truly wonderful as the well-meaning Brendan who tries very hard to cheer Anna up and provide her with daily encouragement when he meets her as their paths cross on the way to work. This is a fun film that modifies a common concept and turns it into something fresh and highly worthwhile.


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