Following his acclaimed documentary Ballymun Lullaby, writer-director Frank Berry uses Dr. Tony Bates’ Breaking The Ripple Effects Of Suicide’, for inspiration to explore teen suicide. His big screen debut turns out to be an important film.
Thirteen-year-old Amy (Jones) hangs out on a tough Tallaght estate with quiet best friend Dillon (Flynn). When a boy on the estate commits suicide it affects the two friends in different ways: Amy, who never really got over the death of her mother three years previous, flirts with the idea of ending her life too until she finds solace in the arms of a local youth (Geraghty), while Dillon gets mixed up with drugs and bullies. Meanwhile, his father (Kelly) is approached by an ex who believes that her one-year-old is his...
A winner at the Galway Film Fleadh, I Used To Live Here is a magnificent debut. Even though he’s tackling a huge subject, Frank Berry resists the temptation to address it head on; like a documentary maker, Berry takes a Ken Loach approach and stands back to observe the goings on without getting involved too much. The reasons why the boy took his own life are never brought to light and the dialogue doesn’t try to articulate what the kids must be feeling, if they’re feeling anything at all, with clever lines.
The kids act and sound like thirteen-year-olds. A scene between a glum Dillon and his earnest father hoping to get to the root of his son’s morose attitude could have ended in a hug and an ice cream but Berry has Dillon just mumble there’s nothing wrong and can he put the TV back on? There isn’t a moment here that doesn’t feel authentic. Even when Berry injects something like a ‘movie moment’ he does so in his own way: expertly documenting the loved up stages of a first romance, Berry comes up with a unique break up; a cruel but probably the most memorable brush offs in recent memory.
The masterstroke of using talented local amateurs in the cast certainly helps with the authenticity. Jordanne Jones is phenomenal in the lead role, keeping things bottled up inside her until a final outburst/cry for help, which is a wonderful piece of acting. But the support aren’t too shabby either with Flynn, Kelly and Ross Geraghty turning heads.
Plotless for the most part, Berry avoids the film from meandering about by keeping the scenes short and snappy which give the drama a brisk pace. Will look forward to Berry’s next film with enthusiasm.