Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachel Deering

Director: Rachel Tunnard

96 minutes

English comedy at its height is the best in the world (US readers, bolt those gasping mouths – it’s true). Yet its tradition of eccentricity and wackiness, all pinned down with fabulous pathos, harking back to the early post-radio days of the Goons and Monty Python, is a damn sight trickier to pull off than it first looks. If you want an example, valued US readers, two words: Ben Stiller.

Approaching her thirtieth birthday and still living in a shed at the end of her mother’s garden, Anna (Whittaker) spends most of her life making short films of her thumbs talking to one another about love, loss and space travel. So far, so zany, right? Anna’s mother (Ashbourne) desperately wants her out of the shed and employs Anna’s excruciatingly batty friend Brendan (Goldstein) to help her find a flat. She eventually and begrudgingly makes friends with sad local young boy Clint, whose presence is never really fully explained nor explored sufficiently.

Getting comedy and tragedy seamlessly operating together is not an easy undertaking. To quickly polarise audience’s emotions is an art and rarely executed well, and Adult Life Skills seems to get the transition wrong every single time. The scarce moments when Anna’s soul is laid bare, either regarding the loss of her brother or the peculiar semi-protective role she has adopted with Clint, a terrible great juggernaut of comedy shit rolls down the hill and smashes down the door, utterly destroying the moment. It’s almost as if Tunnard bottles out of the emotion every time. That or the editor needs shooting. Either way, it leaves such a terrible sense of frustration and discontent lingering in the soul, that it’s tough to carry on viewing.

All the parts are here to make a half decent film. Time and effort has been spent on the locations, the music and the relationships, particularly between Anna and her outgoing friend Fiona (Deering), are well thought through, even pieces of dialogue are sweet. Yet as a whole Adult Life Skills just fails spectacularly in almost every way.

Adult Life Skills doesn’t seem to know what audience it is attempting to appeal to. It’s desperate efforts to be a wacky English comedic story of denial and aimlessness simply don’t work, leaving it as a rather perplexing mess of juddering clowning melancholy. If Tunnard tried to be any more offbeat, she would instantly turn into Reggae. Imagine the writers of Friends trying to remake Spaced and you’re on the right track.

3 / 10