DIR/WRI: Frank Berry • PRO: Frank Berry, Donna Eperon • DOP: Colm Mullen • ED: Frank Berry • MUS: Daragh O’Toole • CAST: Jordanne Jones, Dafhyd Flynn, James Kelly, Ross Geraghty
Neo-realism is a piece of film-terminology largely lost on the modern cinema-audience, save those with more than a passing interest in cinema, verging on an academic one. The meaning of the term could, on a very base level, be interpreted to refer to a very particular era of black-and-white filmmaking in post-war Italy. The fact is, like the Dogma-95 troupe or the surrealists, neo-realism was a screen philosophy that was/is adoptable and potentially of benefit to anyone willing to utilise its paradigms, those being on-location, shooting using local non-actors, telling a story that is thematically prevalent on a local level. I know one highly accomplished film-studies professor who gladly declares Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets to be the best neo-realist film in existence. As far as the term travels, Frank Berry’s I Used to Live Here, is an accomplished neo-realist picture on every level, in that it is compelling, it is local and it is tragically necessary.
I Used to Live Here tells the story of Amy Keane, a Tallaght teenager attempting to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, and finding temptation in the idea of suicide while experiencing the local outcry of love for another teenager who takes his own life during the course of the film. The film, while officially written and directed by Frank Berry, is an unofficial compilation of experiences of suicide from the Tallaght community, with the script formed largely on a mixture of first-hand experiences of survivors of victims and deducible symptoms leading up to a young person taking their own life. Needless to say, the results are moving, relatable and overwhelmingly real.
Frank Berry’s major achievement here is how claustrophobic the film becomes despite being shot mostly outside. As Amy’s options seemingly dwindle, at least to her own perspective, the shots grow closer as though to relate her blindness to the arms aching to embrace her loneliness that surround her constantly. In these moments, I was brought to mind of Eric Steel’s excellent 2006 documentary, The Bridge, in particular the sequence where Ken Baldwin, a man who survived his own suicide attempt having leap from the Golden Gate Bridge, relates that, as his feet left the bridge, “I instantly realized that everything in my life I thought was unfixable was totally fixable – except having just jumped.” I Used to Live Here, like all great neo-realist films, bears a very poignant, deliberate message that culminates in the closing moments, and is crucially told depicted via the more ardent elements of filmmaking, i.e. – script-structure, editing, framing and acting. It is a message and a delivery that I’d dismay to ruin here by revealing too much, but suffice to say hat’s off to Dafhyd Flynn for subtly delivering the film’s finest performance and equally to Berry for keeping his cards so close in order to deliver a damning thematic blow in the closing moments.
I Used to Live Here is a film that has grown organically from the graves of a generation of suicide victims in Tallaght (where the film is set) and beyond. Shot locally, with local non-actors, this timely, poignant and ultimately necessary representation of the darkly mysterious and faceless menace of suicide and suicidal tendencies in communities will prove especially moving for some and should be considered essential viewing for everyone, regardless of their cinematic tendencies; cinematic tendencies considered, this is a vital 87-minutes for anyone who has dismayed at the potential power of cinema of recent years.
15A (See IFCO for details)
I Used to Live Here is released 3rd April 2015