Here before | Movie Review – The Upcoming

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Here before | Film critic

February 14, 2022


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Stacey Gregg’s sad and disturbing directorial debut blends a dark psychological thriller with a ghost story. Although it offers a terrific central performance from Andrea Riseborough, here before loses the plot.

Laura (Riseborough) is a mother who still mourns the loss of her daughter, Josie. Despite the support of his family (Jonjo O’Neill and Lewis McAskie), nothing fills the void. When another family moves in next door, Laura slowly finds herself drawn to Megan (Niamh Dornan), a girl who is the age Josie was when she died. As Megan grows closer to her, Laura’s acute feelings of loss turn into disturbing obsessive behavior. But is there more to this little girl than meets the eye?

Despite the obvious tension alluded to the first time Laura brings Megan home, which slowly builds into often awkward scenes, Gregg’s film remains surprisingly understated. Chloë Thomson’s cinematography is subtly unnerving, with its mournful, composed stillness in cramped interiors, wild and natural imagery and bird’s-eye aerial shots of Northern Ireland’s suburbs. Adam Janota Bzowkski’s calm and disturbing score infiltrates a generally cold atmosphere. Gregg cuts the scenes abruptly, allowing for a few moments of real ease or relief from the characters or the audience. The problems are left unresolved, and so they fester later in the uneasy mood of paranoia.

Yet despite Laura’s delusional descent, the director-screenwriter never abandons an empathetic approach to her pain and confusion. Riseborough’s sympathetic portrayal is still believable and pitiful, even when Gregg’s style and storyline end up getting lopsided and implausible. Leaning into nauseating psychological horror movie tricks (slightly amusing jumps and blurring typical of eerie nightmarish reality), the director-screenwriter misleads audiences about the direction of the story. However, the third act eventually unravels the film’s disconcerting atmosphere and thoughtful characterization.

It’s a shame, as here before finds momentary success in portraying these desperate and damaging impulses in a way that is both deeply disturbing and recognizable. Sadly, Gregg’s debut is disappointing as a disturbing exploration of motherhood and loss while being lost in a silly, soap opera-like conceit.

James Humphrey

here before released in select theaters on the 18thand February 2022.

Watch the trailer for here before here:

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