A shaken young nurse shrinks in the corner of a dark hospital bedroom, blood dripping from her hands, a dead patient splayed out on her back on the cot. The grim opening scene and one jolting, gruesome flashback later on concisely replace exposition that might otherwise have spelled out the original cause of Maud’s trauma-induced delirium. Which is to say that I like the tightness of Glass’s storytelling, even if it did leave me with a less than completely satisfying sense of who Maud really is or was prior to her lonely descent into psychotic religiosity. Channeling Polanski’s Repulsion, Glass roots us in Maud’s crumbling headspace with ruthless commitment (here and there, she does get carried away with her expressive film craft), while Morfydd Clark excels in balancing the tragic dimension of Maud’s arc with its more immediately horrifying elements. All together, pretty thrilling, finely executed psychological horror.
“I wasn’t particularly thinking about the likes of Carrie or The Exorcist during writing or shooting, but I can see in hindsight how people have drawn those parallels. Maybe I did it subconsciously without realising.”
Stacey Gregg’s Directorial Debut Here Before revolves around two neighboring families in a multifamily house in Northern Ireland. Andrea Riseborough’s Laura plays a grieving mother who begins to feel reality slip as she becomes acquainted with Megan, her next door neighbor’s daughter. It starts with an ethereal tone that is purposefully foggy about what the outcome of the film may entail. Is there just an uncanny similarity between their new neighbor Megan and their lost daughter Sophie or is something more sinister occurring?
Gregg demonstrates proficient use of depth of field, as she leans on Chloe Thomson, cinematographer. The lens often draws the length of an interior doorway through multiple rooms, or looks into the treeline or burning fire, and presents unorthodox outdoor angles along sidewalks and roadsides to build tension. Adam Janota Bzowski who notably scored Saint Maud returns with a score that for my taste was not only too abrasive but too forceful. A film like this would be at it’s best with a score that one scarcely notices. Roiling just out of reach rather than slugging us over the head.
Riseborough continues her ascension with another performance of complexity, commitment, and conviction. I don’t have the greatest ear, but her North Irish accent convinced me entirely. It in conjunction with the sincerity of her interactions within the world of the film went a long way toward convincing me of our presence in the location and their shared history there. It’s eyerolling denouement underscores and under delivers on the tension that’s been built up. Gregg’s debut may indicate the seeds of a coming talent, but for now the only thing I’m convinced of is Riseborough’s quiet ascension as a top tier performer.