The return of the Galway Film Fleadh took place recently with the amazing weather coinciding with a massively ambitious outdoor/indoor programme.
The fleadh’s opening film was the excellent Northern Irish thriller, Here Before. The always brilliant Andrea Riseborough plays Laura, a young mum in Antrim who lives with her husband and teenage son. She lost her daughter Josie in a road accident a few years ago but the family seem to be doing OK, all things considered.
A new family moves in next door with a little girl named Megan, who is the same age as Josie. Megan gravitates to Laura and appears to have a connection with her. Several times she mentions having been there before, or something that Josie would have enjoyed. Laura starts to wonder if she is her reincarnated daughter.
Riseborough brings a brilliant manic energy to Laura that is both visible, yet well hidden beneath a calm exterior - she has always been an intriguing performer and she is given a lot to work with here.
There is a moment where we slip into a montage. At this point in the film it goes from a good movie to a great movie. Until then it is a purposefully slow build, but from that point on Laura really believes Megan is Josie, and the lack of support from her husband and son (including a fair amount of gaslighting ) sets up the final act.
Here Before is a beautifully made film by first time feature director Stacey Gregg. The film is framed in an unusual way - uncomfortable angles, and much duplicity, such as Laura and Megan’s houses being attached and mirroring each other exactly.
It is easy to compare Here Before to great pedophobic thrillers like The Babadook or Don’t Look Now, but the film really reminded me of another genre bending thriller/horror that came out two years ago called Make Up. Sadly not on streaming but would make a great double bill with this.
Ireland - Republic and North - do not have massive budgets for films, but we have terrific actors and writers. This is a great example of small intimate thrillers that we can produce really well. Here Before is a brilliant start to the festival with plenty more to come.