Having to deal with the loss of someone is never easy. Whether it’s saying the eternal goodbye to (grand)parents, lovers or friends, the trauma and grief are extremely high. It becomes even more heartbreaking when it’s a mother mourning the death of her daughter. The debut movie from writer/director Stacey Gregg reminds you of that in a beautiful, emotional and supernatural way. Her Here Before tells the story of Laura, who lost her daughter but who feels that she’s still out there. Gregg taps into a touching, human and relatable story but also a story we’ve seen before on screen. The question remains whether this story feels too familiar or if Gregg was able to give her unique touch to it?
No one can replace your daughter… or can they?
Life has been incredibly hard for Laura (Andrea Riseborough). After losing her daughter Josie in a car accident, Laura, her husband Brendan (Jonjo O’Neill) and son Tadhg (Lewis McAskie) are extremely disconnected. Brendan has dealt with the loss quickly while Tadhg’s going through his rough teenage years (and that in combination with his sister’s death). Laura stays home and only leaves to take her son to and from school or to visit the local cemetery. Laura is clearly in pain, but it’s all under the surface. This is until she meets Megan (Niamh Dornan), the daughter of her new neighbours. Since their first encounter, there has been an undeniable connection between them. From inviting Megan and her parents to dinner to giving her a lift from school and from spending a proportionate amount of time together to organising parties, yes, there’s an immediate friendship between Laura and Megan.
However, it doesn’t take long before people notice that there’s something different about Megan. She just moved to the new town, but she claims that she already attended the local school and playground. When Megan starts to draw family pictures of her, Laura and Laura’s family and dressing up as Josie, Laura begins to wonder if there’s a supernatural connection between the two young girls. This undoubtedly impacts the relationship between her, her family and Megan’s parents. Is Megan a reincarnation of Josie, or is she just the perfect means for Laura to keep her daughter alive and to avoid dealing with loss?
Riseborough makes Here Before a must-watch movie
Making a debut movie comes with nerves, anxiety and doubts, but Gregg’s film certainly oozes confidence, creativity and filmmaking know-how. There’s just one element that punctures through the big self-confidence bubble, and that’s the storyline. Some moments don’t add up, many characters feel out of place, and it all feels a bit forced. Because of this, Here Before doesn’t reach its full potential, but it’s certainly worth the watch, mainly because of the stunning cast, with Riseborough (Possessor) as the terrific lead. From overwhelming fears to motherly feelings and from desperation to family love, you feel every emotion Laura’s going through. This is thanks to Riseborough her penetrating glances and poignant looks. While Riseborough certainly rises above everyone, she gets excellent support from Dornan and O’Neill (Rare Beasts). Dornan shows us powerful and gorgeous acting, while O’Neill pulls off a charming and captivating performance as the compassionate but worried husband.
Because of the thrilling and mysterious but also open and bright cinematography from Chloë Thomson, darkness, distortion, friendship and a strong family bond are stunningly created. If you add the splendid score of composer Adam Janota Bzowski (Saint Maud) to the intimate vibe of Belfast and the versatile cinematography, then the suspenseful but also welcoming element becomes even better!
What could have been a top-notch film
With Here Before, Gregg shows us that she can create a mysterious and familiar movie in a tender and confident way. Thanks to Riseborough’s stunning and balanced acting, thrilling cinematography, and mystic soundtrack, Here Before becomes a beautiful debut movie indeed. It would have been a top-notch film if the storyline was only worked out a bit better and with more care.
Here Before is out now in cinemas across the UK and Ireland
Rating: (3.5 / 5)