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[SXSW Review] Psychological thriller ‘Here Before’ dissolves reality with simplistic mystery

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Andrea Riseborough she is rapidly establishing a name for herself in the genre space. In recent years, Black mirror, Mandy, The grudge, Y Holder Demonstrating the actor’s unique and courageous approach to choosing characters and projects. The Last of Riseborough is the leader in Here before, a haunting and dramatic portrait of a grieving family that uses psychological emotions to highlight a tenuous understanding of reality.

Laura from Riseborough is working on cleaning her yard as a new family stops by and begins the process of moving next door. The new neighbor’s daughter, Megan (Niamh dornan), immediately runs to ask about Laura’s house and family. While Laura tends to her own family, she even brings her son Tadgh (Lewis McAskie) to school and back, Megan’s encounters grow with peculiar regularity. In turn, the bond between Megan and Laura grows, exacerbated by the emptiness in Laura’s heart left by the death of her young daughter. Megan’s all-too-familiar demeanor leads Laura to suspect that perhaps Megan is his deceased daughter, somehow. With those around her questioning Laura’s sanity, tensions begin to rise between the neighbors.

Written and directed by Stacey Gregg in his first feature film, Here before he keeps his answers close to the vest at all times, spreading his mysteries as much as possible. Despite Laura’s unflappable and optimistic demeanor, it is clear that things have not completely resolved at home. Her husband (Jonjo o’neill) seems distant and unsure of how to handle his wife’s insistence that she is okay and that life has resumed. Tadgh retreated deep into a defensive and angry bubble. They all seem to tiptoe through their loss as they try to continue normalcy. Megan’s intrusive and personal nature seems initially healing for Laura, but there is something very strange from the beginning.

Gregg creates a haunting atmosphere through the haunting way he presents the breadcrumbs to the truth. The way the score intentionally creates a foreboding mood. Above all, it is in the performances. Megan’s motherEileen O’Higgins) seems wary of allowing her daughter to get close to a strange woman, but that soon gives way to extreme discomfort that breeds resentment. Even Laura’s husband and son worry about her mental well-being, the more she insists on the impossible. Gregg plays both sides of the fence, presenting strong arguments for the tangled mind of a grieving mother, as well as a child with deep secrets and an ulterior motive. The filmmaker builds on both aspects of this mystery while building the tension to an ending that is likely to prove divisive based on expectations.

Here before presents a fading reality of an obsessed mother still mired in the anguish of pain. Old wounds are opened and rubbed raw by the pending promise of what he most desires; his daughter. Gregg illustrates how volatile she can be, with a dangerous ripple effect for everyone around Laura. It is a simple story, perhaps too simple, that moves towards a surprising but low-key ending. While well executed, the final beats don’t feel as satisfying as everything that preceded the conclusion. What ultimately makes it work is Riseborough’s performance. She injects enough nuance to keep Laura identifiable throughout her tumultuous arc. Here before It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does deliver a solid psychological thriller that is emotionally inverted.

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