SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! It is completely normal to feel grief when someone we love passes away. While there are technically five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), people deal with their grief in different ways. And it is the intricacy and uncertainty of grief that have compelled many filmmakers to craft stories of redemption and destruction around it. We’ve seen it done in horror (Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook) and drama (Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue). For Stacey Gregg’s writing and directing debut, Here Before, Andrea Riseborough plays a grieving mother who begins to question her reality when a new family moves in next door.
Marie (Eileen O’Higgins) and Chris (Martin McCann) move to a georgic, picturesque Northern Ireland town to start anew. They purchase a medium-sized house next door to Laura (Andrea Riseborough) and Brendan (Jonjo O’Neill), a couple who has a son named Tadhg (Lewis McAskie).
“…Megan’s distinctive behavior and selected words begin to convince Laura of the unthinkable.”
Almost immediately, Laura is taken aback by the neighbors’ lively daughter Megan (Niamh Dornan). Her unbounded energy and frivolous demeanor trigger upsetting memories of Laura’s daughter, who died a few years ago. Steadily, Laura’s intrigue morphs into obsession as Megan’s distinctive behavior and selected words begin to convince Laura of the unthinkable. However, Laura’s obsession prompts her family’s downfall, who want more than anything to focus on the present and future and not dwell in the past.
The opening scene is muffled and distorted, with the voices of a man and a girl overlapping in a car. The camera closely frames the unknown subjects at varying angles. Adam Janota Bzowski’s disorienting synth-oriented compositions underscore the tension, building up the scene before it comes to an abrupt halt. Long shots of Northern Ireland’s rolling hills, far-reaching fields, and oak trees entice with humble beauty before entering a quaint town, where a remarkably fluid establishing shot zooms in on a white townhouse.
Fraught with all-consuming dread and familial mystery, Here Before is an emotionally and psychologically demanding thriller surrounding the loss of a child. For a parent to lose their child is one of the worst tragedies. Perhaps no parent can ever truly escape the grief of such a loss. Even with the loss of her daughter, Laura stays with her husband and works to be a mother to her son.
"…will unnerve and disturb you..."