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In Stacey Gregg’s Here Before, grief plays an unsettling role. The death of a child is as tough a loss as there can be, and the toll it takes on the human psyche–especially a mother’s–provides the driving force behind the film. Lamenting death is, ironically, part of living. In Here Before, the film gets its thriller notion from the idea that the finality of death is elastic.
Director: Stacey Greggs
Release date: March 17, 2021 (SXSW)
Rating: Not yet rated
In a small town in Northern Ireland, Here Before sets the stage. Laura, her husband, and their son are introduced to their new neighbors and their daughter, Meghan. There’s something about Meghan that Laura just can’t shake, and it’s the uncanny resemblance to her own daughter who passed away. As Laura and Meghan entwine in each other’s lives, Meghan reveals she knows things about Laura’s daughter and her death that she couldn’t possibly know. The gears in Laura’s head start breaking as she begins making questionable decisions that lead to flaring tempers.
As Laura, Andrea Riseborough carries the film throughout. Her bereaved expressions and emotionally charged arguments and fights display the self-aware lunacy of her thoughts while still being unable to abandon them completely. She convinces herself that Meghan is a reincarnation of her deceased daughter while expressing full-blown admittance to how crazy that sounds. Her troubled son isn’t helping, and a husband with a dark secret does little to help solve her concerns.
That dark secret is the ultimate revelation of a film that left more to be desired. Instead of maintaining the focus on Laura, Gregg opts to turn the focus on the other characters as we get deeper into the plot, and the story loses a bit of its luster because of that decision. It’s a thriller that ultimately doesn’t thrill when the turn hits, as Gregg chooses a culmination that feels forced and rushed.