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‘Life Skills’ before the Tardis

Writer/director Joe Cornish has good reason to feel a little smug.

To begin with his debut feature Attack the Block (2011) - a knockabout sci-fi action comedy, made with a low budget and set on a London council estate - was critically well received. It’s the kind of popcorn entertainment that Britain doesn’t make enough of, providing the thrills of a Hollywood blockbuster at a fraction of the cost. But what makes Attack the Block noteworthy is its stars.

For the lead role Cornish cast John Boyega, at the time an unknown actor. Now a household name, Boyega is best known for playing Finn in the new Star Wars movies, as well as impressing with turns in films like Detroit (2017). Clearly Cornish has an eye for talent. Not only did he cast Boyega, but for his female lead he cast the next Doctor Who. Jodie Whittaker had appeared in films and television beforehand, but Attack the Block was one of her first significant roles.

Whittaker’s career has grown and grown. Balancing work between the big and small screen, she is perhaps best known to audiences for her superb turn as Beth Latimer in the crime drama Broadchurch. An actor of impressive range and versatility, she’s a terrific choice for the first female Doctor Who. Everyone in our household is excited to see what she will bring to the part this autumn.

Adult Life Skills (2016) is a perfect example of Jodie’s talents. In it she plays Anna, who is approaching thirty and living like a hermit in her mum’s garden shed, making videos using her thumbs as actors. She’s stuck, unable to move forward with her life following a past trauma, until her mum gives her an ultimatum. It’s a small scale film with a big heart that succeeds in being both very funny and deeply touching because of Whittaker’s performance.

Tom Brookes

From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 13th March 2018.

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