Andrea Riseborough. Wowsers. What an actor she is and while many are still slowly acclimatising themselves to her work, others have been transfixed by her through every single performance she has given, and her near-inability to be anything but spectacular and wholly committed in each and every one. Heck, she was the best thing in Madonna’s horribly misjudged W.E but everyone has one or two that don’t quite hack it. Birdman, Battle of the Sexes, Mandy, playing Margaret Thatcher or her most recent turn in Brandon Cronenberg’s electrifying Possessor – she shows no signs of slowing down, hence why we are talking about yet another tremendous turn.
In Here Before, the feature directorial debut of writer/director Stacey Gregg, Riseborough portrays Laura, a woman living in rural Northern Island with her husband Brendan (Jonjo O’Neil) and son Tadhg (Lewis McAskie), a family who have been beset by tragedy after the passing of daughter Josie years earlier. One day, a young family becomes their new neighbours and she quickly bonds with their young daughter Megan (Niamh Dornan) who she is drawn to quite strongly and soon begins to learn more about. But is there more to her than simply a young girl enjoying life? Does she know more about Laura and her family, her new surroundings despite only moving in within days or, indeed, intimate details about Josie that are eerily accurate?
The power of grief can be unnerving, unsettling, and capable of taking our mind to places it has never been and playing tricks on us as we grapple with the ferocious, unpredictable paths that lay in front of us. After anyone has left us, our immediate thought process is to not only question ourselves but to find answers, ones that may bring about more pain than before and make us beg to have just one more day with them. In Gregg‘s profound, moving script, she beautifully orchestrates through this unique time in our lives that we know is coming but for which always so unprepared, so ill-equipped to deal with that we don’t want to, clinging to the before rather than think about the after.
It’s a harrowing version of such tragedy but depicted with much pathos and understanding, Gregg’s thoughtful film is truly beautiful, anchored by Riseborough’s compelling and electrifying turn that’s as good as anything she has accomplished in her still relatively fledgling career. Indeed, such is the nature of the narrative that it becomes something of a chilling thriller too as Laura tries to piece together not just her grief but an ever-changing world around her that may not be quite what it seems.
Beautifully yet honestly told, backed up by some truly wonderful cinematography by Chloë Thomson and Adam Janota Bzowski’s exquisite score, Here Before may lose its bearings in the final third and become a little too melodramatic but despite the wobble, is one of the festival’s shining lights and we can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Thriller | UK, 2021 | 15 | Digital HD | 18th February 2022 (UK) | Wildcard Distribution | Dir.Stacey Gregg | Andrea Riseborough, Martin McCann, Jonjo O’Neill, Eileen O’Higgins, Lewis McAskie, Niamh Dornan | Watch Film