Director Matthew Porterfield explores a troubled family’s relationships in I Used to be Darker. Written by Porterfield and Amy Belk, the film stars Deragh Campbell as Irish runaway Taryn, Hannah Gross as her cousin, Abby, and John Belanger and Kim Taylor as Ben and Kim, Abby’s parents/Taryn’s aunt and uncle. Musicians Ben and Kim are in the process of separating, which has caused Abby to become rebellious and short-tempered. The family’s dynamic is shaken up even more when Taryn shows up, having run away from her mother’s home in Ireland and in need of a place to stay. The story is raw and honestly told, without regard to the perfect Hollywood ending. The film’s strongest stories are told through careful one-shot takes in which Ben and Kim sing woeful folk songs to an audience and an empty room. The characters’ relationships are downright messy. But in the end, they are family and they will stick together in some kind of way, even if they don’t fit together so nicely.
Darker marks the first film roles for Campbell and Gross, both of whom attend (or attended) theatre school. Their performances in this film are captivating, and I hope to see more from them in the near future. I stayed for the Q & A session of this film and was surprised, along with most of the audience, that Deragh Campbell doesn’t actually have an Irish accent. Her accent in the film is so convincing and natural; she had me fooled! When asked how she managed to pull off the accent, she stated that her mother is from Belfast and that she also worked with a voice coach.
I also found it interesting that nothing in this film seemed to be related to the title. Porterfield addressed this in the Q & A, saying that the title was taken from song lyrics. I still haven’t quite found the relation, but maybe that’s something I’ll uncover the next time I watch this film.