I Used to Live Here doesn’t touch on the issue of suicide but chooses to address it head on. Set in modern day Tallaght, it follows young teenager Amy, played by an amazing newcomer, Jordanne Jones, who is dealing with the loss of her mother, a well meaning but preoccupied father and general teenage malaise. The plot, such as it is, kicks in when a local youth kills himself. Amy sees the outpouring of emotion in the community for the departed kid and this observation slowly crystallises into a very bad idea deep inside her.
Frank Berry, who previously directed the documentary Ballymun Lullaby, coaxes some great performances from a non professional cast. Jones, in particular, carries the film. She’s something really special and it’s worth watching for her alone. The supporting cast are also impressive. The dialogue is sparse to the point of comedy at times; ‘Where ya goin?’ ‘Dunno. (pause) Wanna come?’ (shrugs) ‘Yeah’. The conversations feel real and relate able because they’re between people who don’t know how to talk about stuff. The adults all have enough shit on their plate so when their minds seem elsewhere we understand rather than judge them. These fragments of non heart to hearts are punctuated by a lot of shots of the backs of peoples heads wandering aimlessly around Dublin’s suburbs.
The danger with trying to address something head on is that you end up making a PSA rather than a film. At times, this teeters too close to this invisible line for comfort. The film opens with text telling you that this is based on ‘Breaking The Ripple Effects Of Suicide’ by Dr Tony Bates. As if we needed to be told not to laugh down the back. It also ends with a video of a mental health worker telling us why this is important. Compare this to something like Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Garage’ which was hardly frivolous but had a redeeming level of nuance to it. For a film with such time devoted to the characters the plot points are all obvious from a mile away.
It’s this confusion between being socially conscious and straight up didactic that stops this from being a great film, rather than a good one with great acting. At the end you feel like someone has spent two hours talking to you about an issue rather than telling you a story.
I Used To Live Here is out Friday 3rd April. Check out the trailer below:
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Featured Image Credit – wildcarddistribution.com