It’s nothing new to mix a ghost story with that of a grieving family or person but where there is a hint of the afterlife entering the world of the living, there is usually a sound but sinister explanation. Grief does plays a hideous part in this would be supernaturally glazed film about a mother still feeling the loss of her daughter who believes the new little girl next door is the reincarnation of her dead child. Andrea Riseborough leads this quiet thriller with a steady hand making us believe that maybe the dead can return.

Years after the death of her daughter Josie, Laura feels the pain of losing her all over again when Megan and her mum moves in next door. As time goes by, Laura starts to enjoy the girl’s presence, inviting her round for family dinner, playing games, despite her son Tag’s dislike of the young girl. But when Megan starts to talk about what she did before, almost mimicking Josie’s behaviour and even remembering little details only her family would know. Laura starts to believe that Josie really has returned to her.

On the surface this seems like an innocent story about the possibility that a loved one has returned in an unconventional way. But as the film delves deeper into Laura’s psyche, she becomes twisted and we become distracted by her irrational behaviour before we see the real secrets and lies that have been waiting tear her family apart. Admittedly there is little flare given to the final revelations which makes the ending feel anticlimactic. But with this slow burn storytelling, it’s the journey that counts. The atmospheric score that sets you on edge at each little discovery as well setting the tone for the bleak countryside and grey weather, sets the scene for the unexpected, at least for Laura.

On the surface this seems like an innocent story about the possibility that a loved one has returned in an unconventional way. But as the film delves deeper into Laura’s psyche, she becomes twisted and we become distracted by her irrational behaviour before we see the real secrets and lies that have been waiting tear her family apart.

The disturbing suspicion that something isn’t quite right can be felt from the very beginning and there is something unnerving about Megan’s behaviour without being prompted. She deliberately says things to Laura or in her presence to make her believe she knows something about Josie who died. Usually, it’s the grieving adult convinced at costs that they are right but here even Laura has her doubts. Suffering from cryptic nightmares and daydreams, Laura’s curiosity takes her to the edge. Admittedly there is little flare given to the final revelations which makes the ending feel anticlimactic. But with this slow burn storytelling, it’s the journey that counts. The atmospheric score that sets you on edge at each little discovery as well setting the tone for the bleak countryside and grey weather, sets the scene for the unexpected, at least for Laura.

With very little to determine this a horror film, there is horror explored in the ending and throughout the images that Laura keeps seeing. But this is a straightforward slow burn thriller with unnerving undertones, doubled up as an intriguing character piece, no jump scares here but realisations that gradually creep up on you.

Here Before played at Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 3-6 February 2022

By KatieHogan

Katie has been writing about film for 10 years and joined the FH team back in 2016. Having been brought up on the classics from Empire Strikes Back to Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera, Katie has been obsessed with film since she was young and turned to writing about film after she immersed herself in her 6,000 word essay about the Coen Brothers.