Adult Life Skills
Adult Life Skills is one of those low-key, quirky dramedies that, if executed poorly, has the potential to be be near enough unwatchable. Fortunately, as executed by first-time writer-director Rachel Tunnard and her more than able cast, the film is instead a mopey, mirthful study of making magic out of mundanity.
Jodie Whittaker stars as Anna, a bereaved twin who spends her days doing admin at a small-town Yorkshire rowing club and her nights making videos with a tinfoil spaceship and her anthropomorphic thumbs. She sees faces in places — in egg cartons, in wood grain. She flirts awkwardly with soft-spoken, number-driven real estate agent Brendan (Brett Goldstein). She also lives in a shed, which her mum (Lorrain Ashborne) despairs about ever getting her out of. It’s only when Anna is forced to look after Clint (Ozzy Meyers), a scowl-y, cowboy-obsessed kid with troubles of his own.
Though perpetually verging on preciousness — Edward Hogg appears as a character credited as The Snorkeler — Adult Life Skills has enough insight into arrested development and grief to sidestep the trap of the twee.
6.5 out of 10
Tale of Tales
Tale of Tales is The Brothers Grimm as Terry Gilliam should have made it.
Inspired by Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone — from which the film gets its name — and directed by Gomorrah’s Matteo Garone, it weaves together three archetypal fairytales: the jovial king (John C. Reilly) and bitter queen (Selma Hayek) longing for a child; one kindly yet capricious ruler (Toby Jones), his romantic daughter Violet (Bebe Cave), the flea and the ogre; and the two crones (Hayley Carmichael and Shirley Henderson) who inadvertently mislead a lusty prince (Vincent Cassel). Shot on location around Italy, sumptuously designed, and with a suitably fantastical score from Alexandre Desplat, Tale of Tales is baroque, bloody, alluring and repugnant.
The film might not have much by the way of substance, nor is Matteo the first filmmaker to turn his hand to fable — fellow Italian Pasolini did so with his Trilogy of Life back in the ‘70s — but when the scenery is this sumptuous and the monsters this grotesque, it’s hard to begrudge a little fancifulness.
7 out of 10
The Neon Demon
Like its predecessor, Only God Forgives, Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn’s latest, The Neon Demon, was also booed at Cannes. Unlike its predecessor, only the film’s final third might merit such a reaction.
The film starts as a glossy, lurid scrutiny of beauty and what it elicits. Elle Fanning embodies radiant ingenue Jesse whose arrival in Los Angeles stirs lust and possessiveness in the male fashion set — Alessandro Nivo as a verse-declaiming designer, Desmond Harrington as an intense, hollow-cheeked photographer — and jealousy amid a kind-to-be-cruel clique of models — including Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, and neighbourly but unreadable makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone). The film deftly plumbs these thematic depths with both clarity and unpredictability, which gives way to shock value and detached symbolism.
An Under the Skin about the skin itself, Cronenberg’s Crash where the paraphilia is flesh instead of steel. There’s more to The Neon Demon than meets the eye till, all of a sudden, there isn’t.