I Used to Be Darker

When Taryn, a Northern Irish runaway, finds herself in trouble in Ocean City, MD, she seeks refuge with her aunt and uncle in Baltimore. But Kim and Bill have problems of their own: they’re trying to handle the end of their marriage gracefully for the sake of their daughter Abby, just home from her first year of college. A story of family revelations, people finding each other and letting each other go, looking for love where they’ve found it before and, when that doesn’t work, figuring out where they might find it next.


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  • ★★★★ review by gabriel guimarães on Letterboxd

    The pacing is slow, characters are simple, cinematography is pitch-perfect. When I wanna watch an independent movie, it's something like this that pops on my mind. The performances were honest, the music - my god, give me that soundtrack any day. Kim Taylor is an amazing singer and a pretty good actress. Melancholy, despair, not knowing what to do.

    I loved it.

  • ★★★★ review by Marcissus on Letterboxd

    Taryn is a young oIrish qt who's just tryna keep it together and keep it goin' until the answers, as the movies assure everyone they will, shoot down from the sky like nondestructive meteorites carrying little "here's what you do next:" hand-written-just-for-you notes. Until the time of celestial-feedback finally occurs she's on the run from these insecurities and anxieties, unknowing that those who ostensibly have it all together do not in fact have it all together, that everyone is just tryna keep it together and keep it goin', that there's no speciality in her uncertainty, that everyone is already frustratingly aware of this, that everyone is a little angry and a little lost, and that the question "does it get any easier?" doesn't exactly have reassuring responses. Her main detracting personality traits include a demanding accent that is in serious need of a walking subtitle machine and a tendency to be really scared about the prospect of anything. With an awareness of like totally fucking zero she writhes in Matthew Porterfield's peaceful atmosphere like a forgotten newspaper proclaiming yesterdays news in today's wind. "write a song about it."

    [indistinct shouting]

    Connected a lot, writhed along with it a lot, still thinking about it a lot. One of those ones, the ones you keep thinking about, waiting for answers.

    "i'm so scared"

  • ★★★★½ review by Kurdt on Letterboxd

    One of those films that I have next to nothing to say about but was absolutely fantastic. Pretty much a hangout film about friends as family, constantly running from yourself and wanting to jump in and explore everything while at the same time not wanting to reveal your true self to the world in fear of crushing disappointment. Mumblecore origins, scenes with live music, and beautifully shot (DoP was Jeremy Saulnier, surprisingly). I’m doing it a huge disservice by not writing anything but it’s hard because it just felt so real. Genuine and wonderful.

  • ★★★★ review by Sam C. Mac on Letterboxd

    the sound of a screen door, and a sigh, as moving as could be

  • ★★★½ review by Lawrence Garcia on Letterboxd

    A musical, essentially, as others have pointed out, though one that's crucially defined by its two middle-aged characters, which helps explain the overall emotional tenor, which does flare up in select moments, but remains characterized by a kind of "maturity," the flip-side of which, of course, is emotional disengagement. (The initial violent outburst in Ocean City, accompanied by the knowing "You're taking the knife?"-line, becomes an extended joke.) A film defined mostly by irresolution, with characters wandering listlessly through domestic spaces, suspended in a kind of push-pull between certain emotional and relational states. (That said, the relationship stage that Porterfield chooses to zero in on here, is further down line from, say, the uncertainty captured in Claire Denis' 35 Rhums, which, perhaps, explains why it's not quite as moving.) Moves between independence (very American) and community (less so, at least in the "communal" sense of living). Likewise, perspectives on the future differ between the two teen girls: "You can do anything you want," says one. "Such an American thing to say," responds the other. Thought briefly of Piñeiro during the Gertrude recitation, which is probably inevitable for an indie-scale drama that incorporates Shakespeare; then again, that tenuous kinship does highlight the way Porterfield similarly uses a "small," familiar scenario to experiment in canny ways—most clearly with the incorporation of music—the way he doesn't just use Art to mediate emotional connection and substitute verbal communication (as musicals all do), but also to demonstrate its fundamental inadequacy. Love the moment where Oldham's character is finally able to articulate what bothered him about the previous day's encounter—that he had to shake hands with the two men moving his (former) wife's stuff out of his house. Now put that into a song.

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