Adult Life Skills

The Thirteenth Doctor learns how to grow up.

The childhoods of countless American incels who’d never heard of Doctor Who until they were in their late 30s were ruined when Jodie Whittaker became the new Doctor in 2017. Therefore, it’s high timey-wimey for Whittaker’s prior work to start receiving domestic distribution, especially Rachel Tunnard’s comedy Adult Life Skills. For the past 18 months, Anna (Whittaker) has lived in the shed in her mother’s garden — the British equivalent of living in one’s parents’ basement — where she makes videos nobody ever sees.

This not-really-idyllic existence is threatened when her mother (Lorraine Ashbourne) gives Anna an ultimatum to move out of the shed and into an actual apartment before her imminent 30th birthday. British comedies tend to get dark in a way that mainstream American comedies rarely do, and while Adult Life Skills occasionally feints in that direction, it retains a core of sweetness, and it’s whimsical without also being twee. To be clear, twee whimsy is not a bad thing, but to have one without the other is rare. This is doubly true in a film about an emotionally damaged character having difficulty moving past a very personal trauma, and Adult Life Skills doesn’t undersell Anna’s pain — not that it’s anything like the pain felt by male Doctor Who fans, of course.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theater.

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