Gillian Jacobs stars in Kris Rey’s I Used To Go Here, in select theaters and On Demand this Friday. Previously dubbed Alma Mater, the film follows newly-published author Kate back to her college campus to promote her novel and meet with young aspiring writers.
Kate is still young herself, in her mid 30s, but facing that familiar struggle of feeling stuck and unsure. It doesn’t help that her book tour has been cancelled due to low sales. The old place feels like a relic of a time when her entire life was ahead. Going back could potentially be profoundly inspiring, uncomfortably funny, or a complete disaster.
Writer-director Rey shows us that it’s a combination of all three, and the result is a funny and empathetic narrative. Kate encounters the professor who made her want to be a writer and the old house where she lived with friends who are now married with children. She looks back and sees she only has one book and a broken engagement to show for the years since graduation and experiences a sort of regression – similar to Lynn Shelton’s charming 2014 feature Laggies. Both films found adult female characters spending time with their younger counterparts and wishing they could go back to make different choices; and who can’t relate to that on some level?
Rey’s brilliance especially lies in the way she captures human nature: the tone of voice used by publishers delivering bad news; the arrogance of a professor who once seemed so smart; the doofy innocence of college students who think they know everything. But Jacobs is, as always in her diverse career, the comedic and emotional anchor of I Used To Go Here. Her performance as Kate might not seem all that dynamic – unless you’ve seen her embody entirely different kinds of women, like addict Mickey Dobbs in the underrated Netflix series Love or aloof Britta Perry in Community. Because of Jacobs and Rey’s refreshingly simple narrative, Kate is universal. Kate is every struggling writer, every person who had big dreams in college that didn’t quite come to fruition. When the plot stumbles, their good intentions and solid heart keep it going.
Aided by a compelling young cast including writer-director Hannah Marks, I Used To Go Here is a helpful movie for anyone struggling with the often wide gap between what we expected and what happened.
Images courtesy of Gravitas Ventures