What would you do if you wound up back at college? Many of us have wondered that over the years since graduating, but too many movies that think about that go broad and silly in their depiction. Not here, however, as I Used to Go Here finds a perfect angle and avoids the pratfalls that those other films fall into. This is a winning comedy that gives off a wholly pleasant vibe, while still telling a deep and affecting story. Anchored by Gillian Jacobs in a terrific turn, this flick is quite good and deserves to have a bit of a fuss made over it.

The film is a comedy, centered on a writer in Kate Conklin (Jacobs) who has just had her first book published. Sadly, it’s not a hit and is not being met with universal acclaim. As she’s dealing with the first feelings of failure, the 35-year-old is invited to speak at her alma matter by her former professor David (Jermaine Clement). Accepting the invitation, she winds up back in her college town, as well as on her old campus, for the first time in well over a decade. After arriving and giving a small reading, Kate sticks around, seeing her old house across the street from the bed and breakfast she’s staying at. She finds herself, in short order, deeply enmeshed in the lives of a group of college students, including the guys at her old home, like Animal (Forrest Goodluck), Hugo (Josh Wiggins), and Tall Brandon (Brandon Daley), as well as April (Hannah Marks) a talented young writer. Humor, as well as some genuine pathos, ensues. Kris Ray writes and directs, with cinematography by Nate Hurtsellers, while Curtis Heath handles the music. Supporting players include cameos by Kate Micucci and Jorma Taccone, as well as small parts for Rammel Chan, Zoe Chao, Khloe Janel, Kristina Valada-Viars, and more.

Gillian Jacobs headlines a wonderful cast here, though top to bottom, they’re all very good. She just happens to be a phenomenal lead, so she stands out. Her reactions, awkward comedy, and relatability are tremendous. Jacobs is always a very likable actress, so that’s not a surprise, though here she translates that into someone who you root for, despite some questionable choices. Jermaine Clement is amusing as the somewhat hapless professor, while Hannah Marks has a small role that almost could be the subject of her own movie. Jacobs and Marks share a scene that’s a quietly riveting look at diverging writers and writing styles. It’s the indie comedy (though played seriously) version of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat. It’s a standout sequence.

I Used to Go Here is light and loose, offering a crowd-pleasing new phase in Kris Ray’s career. She’s already been able to mix comedy and drama pretty well, but here she leans into comedy while never losing sight of her characters. Ray’s creation of Kate, as well as Jacob’s execution of the role, is a true pleasure to watch unfold. The hangout vibe that Ray crafts here is infectious, making you eager to keep spending time with these characters, from top to bottom. Personally, I can’t wait to see what she does next in this realm, since she certainly has the talent for it.

On Friday, audiences looking for a nice little comedy, one that doesn’t sacrifice compelling characters for laughs, would do well to give I Used to Go Here a shot. Gillian Jacobs fans will be delighted by her performance here, though everyone should be able to enjoy what Kris Ray has put forward. It’s a charmer, through and through. We still live in fairly dark times, so in this writer’s humble opinion, this is just what we need to distract for about 80 minutes or so. Don’t miss it!

Be sure to check out I Used to Go Here, available to watch this weekend!

(Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

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