Film Review: I Used to Go Here

Kris Rey (formerly Swanberg) follows up 2015’s Unexpected with similarly-themed story about a woman who is coming to terms with the fact that her best-laid plans have gone awry. Kate Conklin (the always sublime Gillian Jacobs) is a writer experiencing the fallout of an ill-received debut novel. Following the cancellation of her book tour and a broken engagement, she attempts to plug the bursting dam of her heart by accepting an invitation to visit to her alma mater in Carbondale, IL. The host is her former mentor/crush David (Jemaine Clement) who invites her to do a reading for his class and spend a couple of days meeting with his students. Kate seizes the opportunity to immerse herself in the last place where she felt full of creative possibility. She relishes the chance to feel like a successful writer for a bit before facing the music. Unfortunately for Kate, the old adage, “you can’t go home again” isn’t just for childhood.

I love Rey’s approach to titles (Rey has an earlier film called It Was Great But I Was Ready to Come Home).  In I Used to Go Here, Kate never utters the titular line, but the sentiment is present whenever she interacts with people in Carbondale. Rey’s story is peppered with many characters who feel fleshed out despite their minimal screen time. One such character is Kate’s pregnant friend Laura (Zoe Chao) who talks Kate through her various crises on the trip while sitting around at home in Chicago about to pop. The film is produced by the Lonely Island which means that Jorma Taccone predictably pops up to act unexpectedly creepy…

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Hammer to Nail: SIFF 2017 Wrap-Up

Better late than never!

The 2017 Seattle International Film Festival, which runs for 25 days every spring in the Emerald City, is four weeks of wall-to-wall, butt-numbing entertainment. This year’s festival took place May 18th to June 11th and featured 400 films from 80 countries. All told, there were 750 festival screenings and events, including 36 world premieres. That’s a lot of time spent in a dark theater. On the festival’s final day, the SIFF employees who introduced the screenings asked the audience how many of them had seen over 100 SIFF films this year. I was shocked when a couple of people actually raised their hands. Those folks averaged 4 films per day. My itinerary wasn’t quite as impressive, but I did manage to squeeze in 26 films, at an average of 1 per day. Hey, I had to see my kids some time.

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Special honored guests included Angelica Houston, who received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting; and the buttery-voiced cowboy Sam Elliott, who spent an afternoon reminiscing about his career and taking questions from an enthusiastic audience.

There were a lot of great films this year.

Read about them on Hammer to Nail!