Written and directed by Stacey Gregg, when a new family moves in next door to Laura and her family, their young daughter, Megan, quickly captivates her, stirring up painful memories of her own daughter who died several years previously. Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Jonjo O’Neill, Niamh Dornan, Eileen O’Higgins, Martin McCann and Lewis McAskie.
Andrea Riseborough has appeared in a wide variety of projects from playing Wallis Simpson in Madonna’s W.E. to a secret agent assassin in Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, but what separates her from others is the unique edge she brings to everything. There’s something about her look and presence which always provides a complexity and darkness, it’s translatable in a huge number of ways but nevertheless is consistently present in her performances. Here Before is of course no exception to that, there’s a wild-eyed, distant and broken quality Riseborough brings to Laura. It gives an edge of the untrustworthy, to keep things interesting even though you do inherently want to trust her. Niamh Dornan similarly brings a sincere edge of darkness to such a young character, filling her with devious or sinister characteristics which keep you guessing, while Eileen O’Higgins is solid support.
The quality of the writing is much the same, it gives away very little clues for the most part until it lays one giveaway directly in your lap. It has a great amount of tension running throughout, the pace works better in the first half then starts to lose some steam in the second. However, a key element with a story like this is the resolution, keeping an audience on the precipice is all well and good but you need to provide a satisfying ending. That’s where things get a little messy here, there’s a lot of potential ways this story could have gone and ultimately viewers might find that the choice it makes is fairly mundane. While you might be hoping for something more complicated, it keeps things surprisingly everyday. It does also hit a rather cliched note of portraying the mother as clinging more fervently to the memory of her child, while the father is focused on moving forward.
Right from the start there’s a dubious, suspicious nature to the atmosphere, you know there’s more to this story and it keeps you holding on to find out. Stacey Gregg uses a number of slightly angled shots and gets in extra close to push that air of the unusual. Considering that a lot of the film is set in their homes and cars, the cinematography (by Chloë Thomson) impressively manages to bring a superb amount of colour and richness to the visual. It helps to heighten the tension and suspense, although it does occasionally feel like it’s trying a little too hard when a few moments veer from its more grounded nature.
Here Before is a tense exploration of grief with the edge of a thriller. Andrea Riseborough gives another solid performance which is filled with emotion and constantly on the verge of losing her grip. It’s shot well to build a gripping atmosphere and it’s a compelling story but sadly it opts to ultimately take a more everyday route than expected, leaving a fairly unsatisfying feel after such a significant build up.