Magazine article Screen International

I Used to Be Darker

Magazine article Screen International

I Used to Be Darker

Article excerpt

Dir: Matt Porterfield. US. 2013. 90mins

As laid-back and low-gloss as American independent cinema gets, Matt Porterfield's I Used To Be Darker is a case of take-it-or-leave-it realism. In other words, if you're drawn to the kind of unexceptional everyday characters it depicts, then you'll feel like spending time with them, and if you're not, you probably won't connect with the film at all.

What impresses is the sheer matter-of-factness in the depiction of the characters and their middle-class milieu.

That could be taken as a sign of no-compromise spirit on the part of Porterfield, whose third feature this is, following 2010's acclaimed Putty Hill. But a somewhat more conventional narrative style than its predecessor - which tackled its grittier youth milieu drama with an overt quasi-documentary edge - makes I Used To Be Darker solidly engaging, if never quite compelling. The film can expect festival admiration rather than commercial reward.

Ostensibly following Taryn (Deragh Campbell), a 19-year-old from Northern Ireland, the film introduces her at Maryland seaside town Ocean City before she freaks out at a party, apparently over troubles with a boy (who, we later learn, has made her pregnant). Distraught, Taryn turns up in Baltimore to see her mother's sister Kim (Kim Taylor) and husband Bill (Ned Oldham) - but she's chosen the worst possible time, as Kim is moving out.

The couple, both musicians, are separating, tension stemming from the fact that Kim still has a singing career, while Bill resents giving up music to run a cement business. While Kim moves out, Taryn hovers around the house until the couple's young daughter Abby (Hannah Gross), an aspiring actress, comes home.

After that, Porterfield and co-writer Amy Belk largely portray their various characters simply hanging out, and invite us to hang out with them. The two girls go to gigs and parties and share confidences, until Abby stages a petulant scene of her own, while Bill mooches in his basement, simmering over Kim's moving in with her two accompanists, one of them the new man in her life. …

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