SXSW 2021: Here Before, Our Father | Festivals & Awards

The ultimate reveals that come from this type of emotional terrorism turn out to be a mighty stretch of human behavior, especially for a movie that wants to be so grounded and perceptive. However, the twisty script is not what most resonates with this movie, as it’s the cinematic storytelling (the cinematography by Chloë Thomson especially) that creates such unease with its full use of the frame and established sense of space. The interactions between Laura and Megan’s mother Marie (Eileen O’Higgins) become progressively uncomfortable, especially with the visual tension that Gregg imbues the scenes, like a scene at a grocery store. The camera slowly creeps on another moment in which Laura starts to act like a mother to Megan, even though it’s entirely inappropriate. Grief is richly ominous in “Here Before,” and so is the sense that something is very, very wrong. Gregg’s film presents its unfathomable mystery with style. 

Our Father,” the directorial debut of Bradley Grant Smith, is the story of Beta (Baize Buzan) and Zelda (Allison Torem)—two twenty-something sisters in the Chicagoland area who are in their own isolated worlds of sadness, in need of a type of connection. Beta has been sleeping in her car, we learn later because of a toxic relationship, and her younger sister Zelda has been living in a boarding home with elderly women, while building a relationship with a set designer named Henry. Both of them need the other, as no one should have to go it alone, and there’s a good deal of sadness in the past that they aren’t facing. 

They come together when their father dies by suicide, and it turns out to be the two sisters up against their stepmother Jane and her older, sometimes leering sons. They learn during the process of everyone splitting up the dad’s possessions (one of numerous sequences that go for dual quirky/moody valor without leaving much of a mark) that they have an estranged Uncle Jerry, and seek to find him as a type of connection to a family. What follows is not a road trip but a low-key investigation to locate Jerry, a set of plot devices after another in which characters remember information conveniently, and it’s all too staid to leave an affect. The sisters are interesting to follow through this story, especially as their quest takes a type of grief without Smith’s script making too much of a big deal of it. 

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