I Used to Be Darker ★★★

Or Melodies for Melancholy. It wasn’t until leaving the theater that I realized that I Used To Be Darker is essentially a musical, and the rule in musical writing is that you can often get away with having people directly state their feelings if it’s in music, or at least the audience won’t care. I wasn’t thinking “musical” (we don’t get a performance in the film at least until a third of the way through it), so often the lyrics struck me as a little too on the nose, and then a guitar smashing a lot on the nose.* But Porterfield finds his rhythms, his use of the spatial expressiveness of the home with long distances sitting between his characters rivals The Unspeakable Act. Its narrative sort of wanders around—it’s essentially a lot of people waiting around to forgive each other who instead sing their feelings in other places (this comes back to the rule of musicals—you get one or two songs to load exposition; the others have to be plot oriented). But Porterfield strikes me as a serious filmmaker whose tuned into both mood and dialogue without having to sell a false set of ideals or feeling compelled to follow any sort of set of principles of how stories should be told or what have you, and god damn his use of an in media res drop of the first line of the credits after an off-screen sound is genuinely clever and touching. Watch this space.

*For whatever disclosure purposes, I know someone who is friends with Porterfield and worked a bit on the film too, though we’re mostly in agreement about its merits anyways. What was more interesting was to hear her talk about his original cut, which 1) Opened with the guitar smashing scene (A good idea to set the tone, however…) and 2) Had 15 minutes with Ocean City, and much more with Blue’s Adele Exarchopolis (which strikes me as a bad idea given the sort of ensemble relationship of the cast).

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