I Used to Be Funny (2023)

by | Jun 30, 2024 | 2020s, Comedy, Comedy drama, Drama, Dramedy, Film Reviews | 0 comments


Laughter Lost and Found: A Look at “I Used to Be Funny”

Ally Pankiw’s “I Used to Be Funny” isn’t your typical laugh-a-minute comedy. Sure, there are moments of genuine humor sprinkled throughout, but this Canadian dramedy delves into something far deeper: the aftermath of trauma and the struggle to rediscover oneself.

We meet our protagonist, Sam (played by the ever-magnetic Rachel Sennott), in a state of emotional disarray. Once a rising star in the Toronto comedy scene, she’s now withdrawn, barely clinging to the remnants of her former life. Her worried roommates struggle to understand the source of her despair, and the film slowly unravels the mystery through a series of flashbacks.

These flashbacks take us back to a time when Sam was an au pair for a bright but troubled teenage girl named Brooke (Olga Petsa). Sam’s initial frustration with the responsibility melts away as she connects with Brooke, forging a bond that becomes a source of strength for them both. Pankiw masterfully portrays this burgeoning friendship, highlighting the shared vulnerability and humor that often blossoms between unlikely pairs.

But something happens – the film keeps us guessing about the specifics – and the easy laughter and camaraderie between Sam and Brooke abruptly ends. The weight of this unspoken incident hangs heavy over the present timeline, coloring Sam’s every interaction. Here, Sennott shines. Her portrayal of a woman grappling with unseen scars is raw and deeply affecting. The way she conveys a constant undercurrent of anxiety and a flicker of defiance in her eyes is a masterclass in understated acting.


The film’s strength lies in its exploration of trauma. It doesn’t shy away from the emotional fallout, showcasing the numbing depression and fractured sense of self that can linger. However, “I Used to Be Funny” isn’t solely a descent into darkness. There are glimmers of hope, particularly in the unexpected connections Sam forms.

One such connection comes with Brooke’s grieving aunt, Jill (played by the ever-reliable Dani Kind). Their initial interactions are laced with guardedness, but a mutual understanding blooms as they navigate the complexities of their shared loss. This relationship adds an additional layer of emotional depth, showcasing the ripple effects of trauma and the unexpected ways in which healing can occur.

Pankiw’s direction is assured, seamlessly weaving between past and present without ever feeling disjointed. The use of silence is particularly effective, allowing the weight of unspoken emotions to speak volumes. The film is also visually striking, with an understated beauty that perfectly complements the raw emotional core.

“I Used to Be Funny” isn’t a film for those seeking a light and breezy experience. It’s a challenging watch at times, demanding emotional investment from the audience. However, for those willing to take the plunge, it offers a rewarding journey – a story about loss, resilience, and the enduring power of human connection. It’s a film that stays with you long after the credits roll, prompting reflection and reminding us of the strength we can find within ourselves, even when the laughter seems lost.


Final Verdict

“I Used to Be Funny” is a powerful and poignant exploration of trauma and its aftermath. Anchored by a phenomenal performance from Rachel Sennott and a nuanced script, it’s a film that will resonate with anyone who has ever grappled with loss and the search for healing. It may not be a laugh riot, but it’s a deeply affecting and ultimately hopeful story that lingers long in the memory.

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