Kate Conklin’s (Gillian Jacobs) first novel has just been published and she’s looking forward to a multi-city promotional tour. Having recently broken up with her fiancé, she’s focusing on her career. (Attending a baby shower, her three pregnant friends pose with their bumps, Kate with her book.) But before she can begin packing, she receives a disappointing call from her editor. Seasons Passed is not selling and the publisher has canceled Kate’s tour. Don’t worry, she’s told, once the New York Times comes out with a rave review, the book will move, and the tour will be back on.
Softening the blow is an invitation from Kate’s alma mater, Illinois University. David Kirkpatrick (Jermaine Clement), who was Kate’s creative writing professor and her mentor, wants her to come to Carbondale, Illinois, for a reading. It’s a consolation prize, but still gratifying. Her tour is off, but she is a published author, right? She can go back to her college, head held high.
Elliott (Rammel Chan), an eager beaver aspiring writer, picks Kate up at the airport and drives her to the bed and breakfast where she will be staying. The owner, Mrs. Beeter (Cindy Gold), is unimpressed by Kate’s status as a writer or an alumn. She shows Kate her room and hands her a key on a lanyard, instructing her not to lose it. Of course, Kate does and ends up sleeping most nights at a house across the street, dubbed the Writer’s Retreat, where she once lived. There’s a trip down memory lane with Kate visiting her old room, the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars still affixed to the ceiling.
I Used to Go Here will appeal to anyone who has ventured back to their college for a reunion or a visit and found the experience surreal. (And let’s face it – who hasn’t?) The buildings in Carbondale still stand, but appear less grand. Beloved professors, particularly Kirkpatrick, seem unworthy of past adoration. And the students? Rather than be impressed by Kate, they view her accomplishment as a starting line for themselves. That realization strikes Kate when her reading doesn’t go well and, sitting in on one of Kirkpatrick’s classes, she’s impressed by a student, April (Hannah Marks).
Kirkpatrick offers Kate a teaching position at the college, she extends her stay. Rather than taking the offer seriously and exploring what that teaching position would entail, she’s soon acting more like a student – attending parties, swimming in the lake, spying on Kirkpatrick, and sleeping with a resident of the Writer’s Retreat. The much anticipated New York Times review finally comes out and serves as a tipping point for Kate.
Filmed on the campus of Southern Illinois University, I Used to Go Here creates the proper backdrop for college life. While Kate’s surprised that so little has changed since she graduated, many colleges, possibly because of financial limits, rarely undergo massive renovations. What does change are the students themselves. Youth brings with it a certain amount of arrogance and ambition. That reality check is exactly what Kate needed to reboot, not only her writing career, but her life.
Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures