Almost everyone has sections of their lives that they have idealized. It could be living in a particular neighborhood or city, or when we went to a certain school, but nostalgia is a powerful thing when it comes to thinking about our past. Of course, just because something was enjoyable at one stage of life does not mean it will always be that way, a theme that plays heavily into the new film, I Used to Go Here.
Kate (Gillian Jacobs) is at a crossroads in her life. Her just-published book is not the success she hoped, she recently broke up with her fiancé, and her best friend Laura (Zoe Chao) is married with a child on the way. She’s thrown a lifeline of sorts when her former college professor, David (Jemaine Clement), asks her to return to speak at her alma mater.
Her arrival in Carbondale, Illinois, brings back a flood of good memories, including staying at a B&B directly across from her old house. But it’s soon clear that the reality of the experience will not match up with her expectations, and Kate finds herself leaning on a group of college students living in her old house for support.
Written and directed by Kris Rey, the film has a story that will be achingly familiar for many people who’ve gone back to visit their old schools. Things are at once recognizable yet different enough as to be disorienting. There’s a desire to reconnect with friends from your younger years, but the intervening time apart can make interactions tentative and uncomfortable.
That awkwardness comes through in every step Kate takes in her brief stay at the university, something which also translates into the viewing experience. You want the best for Kate even while we can see that she’s self-sabotaging with almost everything she does. Rey doesn’t break any new ground with the story, but she hits all the right notes and delivers a number of interesting characters aside from Kate.
Anyone who has tried to make their living as a writer will also empathize with the doubts that creep in on Kate about her own abilities. She doesn’t do herself any favors by immersing herself back in a creative writing program filled with students who are full of promise.
Jacobs makes for an appealing, if somewhat bland, lead. She’s found the most success on TV shows like Community, but an independent role like this serves her well. Clement is always good for a laugh, although he’s understated here. The actors playing the motley crew of college students that Kate hangs out with are all a lot of fun, especially Josh Wiggins, Forrest Goodluck, and Khloe Janel.
I Used to Go Here is a bittersweet journey for a woman still in search of herself, one that’s worth taking for any movie lover who’s ever experienced something similar.
I Used to Go Here is available on VOD streaming options like iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.