Grief, an emotion that can grip the human psyche tight within its grasp, is the vehicle for Here Before. It blurs the lines between reality and memory, merging the two and haunting the long-afflicted Laura (Andrea Riseborough). Stacey Gregg’s directorial debut is a tense exercise in gaslighting, dragging a family to the brink when new neighbours move next door, a young girl, in particular, reminding them of loss and tragedy. 

Gregg’s Here Before begins to formulate an open wound for Laura, an understandable difficulty to let go of her late daughter. While this emotional posturing occurs, an unnamed Northern Irish suburb wears the protagonist’s pain in a bleak and bland small-town uniform. Megan, the young new neighbour, flirts perilously close with a family’s past tragedies, manipulating mother and son at school. As two families come to emotional and occasional physical blows over the young Megan (Niamh Dornan), the lack of narrative clarity or a justified sparsity undermines this emotional thriller. 

Riseborough, incapable of poor performance, extends her hand at the whim of direction, though she cannot save this unfortunately lacking dissection of motherly pain. An almost comedic undercurrent to dialogue assigned elsewhere furthers the undercooked narrative. Even as Gregg does offer up some engaging visuals of dreary suburbs and desaturated supermarkets that exude trappings of the past, the writing never lets us fully believe. 

What begins as a character study of the fraught Laura shifts focuses to others that aren’t developed enough or expanded upon in what feels like a flimsy capitulation to dismiss any creepy supernaturalism. There are closely woven strings at the heart of Here Before that seem to unravel en mass and dissipate into nonsensical parental chaos. The stumbling jump from jealous, tragic longings to undeveloped theories of reincarnation gut Here Before and leave an unsatisfying narrative out of sorts. A foundation worthy of investment frustratingly falls to pieces.



CAST:  Andrea Riseborough, Niamh Dornan, Jonjo O’Neill, Eileen O’Higgins, Martin McCann, Lewis McAskie

DIRECTOR: Stacey Gregg

WRITER: Stacey Gregg

SYNOPSIS: As a new family moves in next door, Laura must discern between reality and nightmare as painful memories are stirred up by a young girl.