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Adult Life Skills

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Adult Life Skills Movie Poster Image
Quirky dramedy explores loss, family, moving forward.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 96 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages about importance of unconditional friendship, moving on after loss, open communication between parents and kids. Empathy is a theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anna is clever, funny, but having trouble moving on with her life after her brother's death. Fiona is a supportive, loving best friend. Brendan is patient, kind. Marion and Jean love Anna unconditionally but want her to process her grief.

Violence

Clint is missing and then found in a potentially dangerous place near a body of water (he's not injured). A controlled explosion blows up a shed. Yelling/arguing, including from an adult to a child.

Sex

Nonsexual close-up of Anna wearing only panties; later she changes, and viewers see her in her bra. Nonsexual shot of Anna pulling down her tights/underwear and peeing in public (while crouching to hide). A couple kisses passionately, and the woman propositions sex, but they stop before it goes too far. Anna's grandmother says she should just have sex with someone and makes comments about how every woman wants an alpha male in bed. Doodles of penises, including pins.

Language

Occasional use of "f--k," "f---ing hell," "s--t," "bloody," "arsehole," "shag," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Anna and her best friend go out to "get hammered." Anna gets drunk and leaves in a taxi.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Adult Life Skills is a British dramedy about a semi-reclusive 29-year-old woman named Anna (Jodie Whittaker of Doctor Who) who's grieving her twin brother's death while living in the shed behind her childhood home. The movie deals with heavy themes including depression, bereavement, loneliness, and terminally sick loved ones, but it also promotes empathy and the importance of unconditional friendship. Expect occasional strong language throughout ("f--k," "f---ing hell," "arsehole," "s--t"), as well as one scene of adult drunkenness. There's also a complicated multigenerational friendship that might seem unhealthy (the adult yells something inappropriately hurtful to the child but later redeems herself) and an awkward blossoming romance that gets physical but doesn't go beyond passionate kissing. A couple of nonsexual scenes show a woman in her underwear/partially dressed.

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What's the story?

ADULT LIFE SKILLS follows Anna (Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker), a 29-year-old English woman who's been living in the shed behind her mother and grandmother's home since her twin brother died a year and a half earlier. Unmotivated and perpetually grieving, Anna works at a local children's rec center and spends her free time recording thumb-puppet videos in the style of a comedy vlog she and her late brother used to run. Worried that Anna is stuck in her grief, her mom, Marion (Lorraine Ashbourne), informs Anna that she must move out of the backyard by her 30th birthday. Meanwhile, Anna strikes up a friendship with one of the more difficult kids from the day camp, an imaginative boy named Clint (Ozzy Myers) who wears cowboy outfits every day and is sad about his mum's terminal illness.

Is it any good?

Whittaker gives a touching lead performance in this sweet if uneven dramedy about a woman on the cusp of 30 who's not ready to grow up -- nor let go of her late twin. Director Rachel Tunnard's feature film debut, which was filmed in 2016, has gained traction because her star is now the buzzed-about latest incarnation of Doctor Who. And while it's not an easy sell outside of indie-loving audiences -- it's not funny enough to be a flat-out comedy, and it's just a tad too quirky to be mainstream -- the movie is offbeat without being totally twee, and Whittaker makes Anna empathetic despite her obvious emotional issues and shortcomings.

The thumb-puppet sequences (Anna pretends her thumbs are astronauts on a mission that's about to end in total destruction) are surprisingly touching, as is the fact that Anna keeps envisioning her brother talking to her through key moments. The subplot with young Clint is a bit too on the nose (a fellow grieving, imaginative kid in search of companionship), but Myers proves himself a capable young actor. The best parts of the movie are when Anna is engaging either her best friend, Fiona (Rachael Deering), or her mum and grandma. The interaction between the actresses is genuine and heartfelt -- a reminder of why more movies should star women of all ages.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what the movie's title, Adult Life Skills, means to them. What do you consider the necessary skills of adulthood? When and how can or should you learn them?

  • Who, if anyone, in the movie is a role model? What character strengths do they display?

  • Do you think Whittaker's newfound fame as The Doctor makes this movie (shot in 2016) more appealing to audiences?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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