IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF HERE BEFORE!
One of the most anticipated films of the SXSW Film Festival this year, is the Irish thriller Here Before, starring Andrea Riseborough as a grieving mother that starts to develop an unusual friendship with her new neighbor’s daughter, Megan, believing she is the new physical form of her lost daughter’s spirit. Written and directed by Stacey Gregg, Here Before is a kind, extremely enjoyable film that deals with grief and twists it into a fascinating thriller, where the audience gets excited to know how it will unfold.
Gregg is a charismatic director, as she uses a wide range of angles to create an environment where the audience starts to feel gradually uncomfortable. Helped by very talented performances, Here Before manages to be balanced between the thriller elements and the drama that ultimately is the driving force of the film. Dealing with grief is a work that demands a certain sensitivity, which Gregg applies in a subtle way, creating a narrative that seems colorful at first, but as it slowly begins to build its mystery, tensions start to dim the tone and ultimately the audience begins to feel unsure of what is going to go down next. Riseborough is the perfect actress to embody this persona of a dedicated mother that seemly surpassed the mourning of a long lost child, and sees herself redoing the same ordeal with a girl that apparently has a spiritual connection with her. By reliving her most vulnerable and tragic experience, Laura starts to doubt, not only her sanity, but also the truth of what Megan represents and the unusual behavior that awakes these painful memories.
Even if Here Before doesn’t quite convince the audience in the long run of its mystery, it’s an engaging, intriguing drama that never loses focus of its main goal: the many twists that grief creates in our behavior and how it makes us doubt our perception of reality. Allowing Riseborough to explore the many unstable reactions of her character not being believed by her family and neighbors, triggers a suprisingly convincing approach to an unsettling and palpable feeling. We feel Laura’s pain as if it was our own and her suspicions are ours as well, as we feel engaged in helping her in every single process. Gregg’s writing absorbs the best that big Hollywood classics have shown us through the years, masterfully handling the difficult stages of grief and deceiving the audience with a false sense of linearity. When the biggest twist is revealed, we almost can’t believe it. Even if the build up is not always successful on some occasions, the viewer inevitabily will be eager for the final act. This manipulative writing is Gregg’s best asset in creating a dramatic thriller that strikes right in our hearts with its delicate theme and make us dive into a mystery we are desperate to solve.
Here Before sometimes isn’t convincing enough when it shifts from the main character’s perspective, but it shows how Gregg is keen in reflecting the many psychological wounds that come from awakening painful experiences. The perception of reality gets twisted, and the instinct in wanting to believe in something that seems too unreal to be true takes over our behavior. Here Before is an extremely intriguing thriller and, most importantly, it’s a gripping drama that has the sensibility to not toy with emotions and falling into a melodramatic tone. It’s a small, gorgeously filmed exercise that sets up a very interesting mystery and uses a talented performer to make grief palpable to the audience. Andrea Riseborough continues to grow as an actress and shows she is up for next year’s Academy Awards with this towering performance. And Stacey Gregg is definitely a name to follow up in upcoming projects, as she is a creative writer and a compelling filmmaker. It may have its flaws, but Here Before is competent in projecting the most horrific side of grief and playing with the audience with its interesting mystery.
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Title: Here Before
Original Title: Here Before
Director: Stacey Gregg
Runtime: 83 min.
Trailer | Here Before