Frank Berry, director of the super documentary Ballymun Lullaby, tackles an incendiary issue in his first dramatic feature. Working with Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, Berry went among non-professional actors in Tallaght with the intention of producing a collage on the notion of "suicide clusters". Taking impetus from an article by Tony Bates, founder of Headstrong, in this newspaper, Berry has ended up attacking the subject from an oblique angle. The film is all the more affecting for that.
We move among Tallaght residents in the wake of a young man’s suicide. Some people knew him well. There’s a hint that some knew him less well than they pretend. All seem laid low by a pervasive psychological torpor.
The film focuses on two young people kicked about by the spreading ripples.
Dylan (Flynn) is in trouble at school after being hounded by various sets of bullies. Amy (Jones), living with her widowed dad, is pressed into ever-greater adolescent complexities. Can she trust her new boyfriend? What is behind dad’s closeness to an unknown woman?
Both young actors are excellent. The weight of the film lies particularly heavily on Jones’s narrow shoulders and she emerges as a pocket marvel. That furrowed face helps turn a journey to the city centre into a miniature epic; her unwillingness to communicate lends greater weight to an eventual emotional meltdown.
Daragh O’Toole’s flawless score throbs to persuasive effect. Using a mobile camera that often bounces along behind the characters, Colm Mullen’s wide-screen cinematography suggests that of the Dardenne brothers’ work, but Berry has delivered a more meandering tale than we expect from those Belgians.
On occasion, I Used to Live Here is, perhaps, a little too loosely formed, but two stunning segments – one cathartic, the other worryingly ambiguous – close the remarkable film in striking style.