Tribeca ’16 Recap: Narratives

Now let’s take a look at a few features that caught my attention during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

Adult Life Skills

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in the film ADULT LIFE SKILLS. Photographer: Jo Irvine

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in the film ADULT LIFE SKILLS.
Photographer: Jo Irvine

A poignant tragicomedy starring Jodie Whittaker as Anna, a 29-year-old who is rapidly approaching 30 (much to her chagrin). Added to the complications of her life is the fact that she lives in a shed, on her mother’s property in Yorkshire, England and is in a bit of a rut. Originally titled How to Live Yours (which comes up during the course of the film), Adult Life Skills is based on a BAFTA award-winning short film, both directed, written and edited by TFF 2016 Award Winner Rachel Tunnage (Nora Ephron Prize for Directing and Screenwriting).

Far and away, Adult Life Skills lived up to my expectations and simply was one of my favorite screenings of the entire festival. Sure, I am a sucker for the English countryside, but that slight bias aside, this was a film that keyed into to my sense of humor, emotional engagement and curiosity as the story unfolds, revealing to the audience the cause(s) of Anna’s seeming fecklessness.

Additionally, how can you NOT fall for a film that is described in its press notes as so:

[ADULT LIFE SKILLS has] basically the same themes as ROCKY if you think about it. But with thumbs. And a cowboy. And no boxing.

Adult Life Skills is bolstered by a wonderful ensemble cast that includes Brett Goldstein, Lorraine Ashbourne, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Eileen Davies, Rachael Deering, and Ozzy Myers and features quite an epic use of Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again.

 

Little Boxes

Neslan Ellis as Mack Burns, Armani Jackson as Clark Burns, and Melanie Lynskey as Gina McNulty-Burns in LITTLE BOXES. Photo by: Mark Doyle

Nelsan Ellis as Mack Burns, Armani Jackson as Clark Burns, and Melanie Lynskey as Gina McNulty-Burns in LITTLE BOXES.
Photo by: Mark Doyle

Little Boxes is a fish out of water/coming of age story directed by Rob Meyer, written by Annie J Howell and executive produced by Cary Fukunaga.

Here’s the setup – enter our happy hipster Brooklynite family (Nelsan Ellis, Melanie Lynskey and newcomer Armani Jackson). By all accounts life could not be better. When the family matriarch  (Lynskey) is offered an opportunity she cannot turn down, the family finds themselves boxing up their city life and heading clear across the country to the ultra-suburban placidity of Rome, Washington. As you might guess, the transition has a few bumps that need to be worked out.

Overall I found this film to be an enjoyable light comedy that broached subjects such as cultural assimilation (in a new environment) and cultural identity with a measure of success.

The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo and Christine Taylor.

 

Here Alone

Lucy Walters as Ann and Shane West as Jason in HERE ALONE. Cinematographer: Adam McDaid

Lucy Walters as Ann and Shane West as Jason in HERE ALONE.
Cinematographer: Adam McDaid

This Audience Award winner is set against a heavily wooded, post-apocalyptic landscape of upstate New York. Like many films of the similar genre, Here Alone starts out as a quiet, contemplative piece. We are introduced to this “new” world through the perspective of a single traveler Ann (Lucy Walters). In fact, the opening minutes felt more like a “how-to guide” for living in the world after the fall of civilization than a narrative feature.

But alas, circumstances make it such that Ann’s sole accomplishment of simply “surviving” proves to not be enough,  eventually forcing her to face the prospect of expanding her horizons and venturing out into the larger world and the potential risks that lie therein.

Films like Here Alone cater to an ongoing fascination we have as a society for examining survival in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. While the concept is intriguing, it is also burdened with some limitations, namely the potential for any  story set amidst this setting to be predictable. Where films tend to rise or fall is in how they can take some of these more predictable elements and either subvert them or play them straight, but in an entertaining way.

That said, it begs to be asked — is Here Almost worth a look in?

Well, if you are like me, this film will be of interest to you based merely on the subject matter. Heck – one more infection spreads, causing mass human extinction, leaving its survivors to revert to the basest of human nature narrative in your filmgoing experience couldn’t hurt – now could it?

 

Next: A Spotlight on a Tribeca 2016 Short Subject Film

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