Adult Life Skills (2016)

There are, sadly, too many new films where I have to really struggle to say nice things when the film ultimately underwhelms me by overreaching with bad dialogue, over-elaborated symbolism or clunky metaphors. Indeed, all of the above, quite often. This has frequently been the case with new British films (and I can only imagine the situation getting worse in our post-“Brexit” world as European film financing dries up). Thankfully, then, this recent debut is on the whole rather delightful, even if it does have a certain twee and precious quality: its protagonist Anna (played by Jodie Whittaker) makes lo-fi films using her thumbs as characters; there’s a child portentously dressed as a cowboy (Ozzy Myers); and a love interest for Anna with a Jemaine Clement level of deadpan delivery (Brett Goldstein’s part-time estate agent Brendan). It’s certainly better than the director’s short film of a couple of years ago, for in expanding the premise of a 30-year-old woman living in her mum’s shed, it also adds to the pathos of her situation without overlabouring some of its plot parallels (the child whose situation mirrors her own could have been done so much more clunkily). Perhaps it’s just that Whittaker’s s gentle Yorkshire accent makes everything sound more agreeable, but I think this is on the whole a solid debut film and I look forward to more from director/writer Rachel Tunnard.

Adult Life Skills posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Rachel Tunnard; Cinematographer Bet Rourich; Starring Jodie Whittaker, Ozzy Myers, Brett Goldstein; Length 96 minutes.
Seen at Stratford East Picturehouse, London, Tuesday 28 June 2016.


“BAFTA Shorts 2015”

I fear my post about this collection of BAFTA-nominated short films will be shorter than the list of credits below, but it was granted an official release to British cinemas so it falls under the ambit of my New Year’s resolution film-watching project. Needless to say, as with any such compilation, there are highs and lows, but the wonder of the short film form is that even if you get bored, there’s something else up in fairly short order.

Out of the eight short films featured in this compilation, the highlight of the set is probably The Kármán Line and not just because it stars the always delightful and watchable Olivia Colman. It starts out as a rather whimsical tale of a woman who, pottering about at home with her stroppy teenage daughter one day, just spontaneously starts slowly floating upwards, as if caught in an invisible tractor beam. However, it quickly develops into a really very affecting story about death, loss and grieving, as the ramifications of the mother’s new situation slowly dawn on everyone.

Many of the other films also grapple with family sadness. Of the animations, The Bigger Picture is probably the most interesting, with its odd mixed-media painted aesthetic, and story of two brothers coping with their mother’s dying, while My Dad is a garishly-coloured portrait of an affectionate yet problematically racist father. Emotional Fusebox, meanwhile, is a gorgeously filmed and well-acted, if somewhat slight, story of a young woman uneasily pushed by her family towards romance, as we slowly gather why she’s living in the shed at home (the director has since expanded it as Adult Life Skills). The longest film is Slap, a coming-of-age story about a young man with a confused sexual identity, which follows some fairly familiar paths, as does Boogaloo and Graham, though its story of two young Belfast kids looking after some baby chickens during the Troubles has a refreshing sense of place and some fine child acting. The low-key but appealing domestic drama Three Brothers and oddball space-era Scottish animation Monkey Love Experiments round the programme out.

All the films are BAFTA-nominated for a reason, and show plenty of promise for their assembled casts and crews, so I look forward to some of them making the leap to feature filmmaking. Then again, as this programme reminds me, the short film has its own particular pleasures.

BAFTA Shorts 2015 film posterCREDITS
Emotional Fusebox (2014) (dir./wr. Rachel Tunnard, 14 minutes); My Dad (2014) (dir./wr. Marcus Armitage, 6 minutes); Slap (2014) (dir. Nick Rowland, wr. Islay Bell-Webb and Rowland, 25 minutes); Three Brothers (2014) (dir./wr. Aleem Khan, 17 minutes); The Bigger Picture (2014) (dir. Daisy Jacobs, wr. Jacobs and Jennifer Majka, 8 minutes); The Kármán Line (2014) (dir. Oscar Sharp, wr. Dawn King and Sharp, 24 minutes); Monkey Love Experiments (2014) (dir./wr. Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson, 9 minutes); Boogaloo and Graham (2014) (dir. Michael Lennox, wr. Ronan Blaney, 14 minutes).
Seen at ICA, London, Thursday 12 March 2015.