Director: Frank Berry
Cast: Jordanne Jones, Dafyhd Flynn, James Kelly, Ross Gerarghty and Nikita Rowley
Running Time: 87 minutes
Release Date: April 3rd
I Used to Live Here follows Amy, a 13-year-old living with her father and still coping with the loss of her mother, over the course of a week after the suicide of a local boy that ripples out through the Killinarden community. On top of this, she has regular teenage problems to contend with: school, boys and her dad’s ex-girlfriend reappearing with a child that might be his.
As the movie’s heart and anchor, Jordan Jones is immense as Amy. She runs the gamut of teenage life, from the giddiness of a new relationship to the bickering back-and-forths with parents. She is both meek and vulnerable but prone to bouts of explosive feistiness. Her friendship with Dylan, a troubled and bullied kid, that serves as the emotional bedrock is elegantly brought out with minimal dialogue, conversation through feet shuffling and awkward stares. As Dylan, Dafyhd Flynn is every bit Jones’ equal, perfectly showing teen isolation and also providing some of the movie’s fleeting and welcome humour — after getting in a pinch with some local weed dealers, he raids his mother’s purse for money and is caught, then spins a yarn no one is believing about wanting to buy her a Masterchef DVD.
Berry’s choice to use first-time actors and to shoot in their homes is an inspired one. It leaves the movie bereft of pretence and perfectly lived in — from water drank from liberated pint glasses and tea out of mugs from Easter eggs. The small houses make things both incredibly intimate and confrontation inevitable. His camera is intrusive, always tight and hugging its subjects, it lingers over their shoulders while they walk and invades their personal space. It’ll evoke thoughts of Ken Loach and early Shane Meadows but a more apt comparison might be the naturalism of the Dardenne brothers.
He handles the important subject matter with care. There’s nothing explicit about it, but he manages to convey how such a sad and impactful event can hang around long after, like a spectre. He’s aware of the impressionability of teenagers, how being close to a person who has taken their life might legitimise suicide as an ideal in the eyes of someone who is only beginning to build emotional strength. A gang gather on the bridge where Joe took his life and a girl mentions how “he’s going to regret this”, for her what happened had no finality, just an escape.
Both Berry and all involved are ones to keep a keen eye on in the future.