THE GIRL BEFORE on HBO Max is a new limited series co-produced by BBC. A slow-burn psychological thriller with just 4 episodes. While the development is slow, it’s still fairly nerve-racking throughout. Read our full The Girl Before series review here!
THE GIRL BEFORE is a new HBO Max limited series with a great cast and intriguing plot. This is a British co-production that first aired on the BBC in December 2021. Now, it’s out on HBO Max in both the US and many other countries.
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While the plot is very much a psychological thriller, the storyline is told in a slow-burn manner. If you just surrender to it [that means: put your phone away] it’s both creepy and nerve-racking.
Continue reading our The Girl Before series review below. We’ve watched all four episodes for this review.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines
The Girl Before essentially has four main characters. Of varying size in terms of screentime, but still, all four are paramount to the actual story in this limited series.
As the absolute star of The Girl Before, we have Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror, The Cloverfield Paradox) as Jane. Having recently suffered through personal grief, she moves into a very stylish house. It’s also minimalist and quite “cold” in some ways, but it suits Jane.
She is allowed to move in as a tenant if she agrees to have the house monitor her. The house is a form of AI that is meant to help the architect build better homes.
The “lease” also includes some fiercely strict guidelines that you must follow while living there. Plus, not surprisingly, several questionnaires are meant to help the house improve. Well, in theory anyway. This is a “smart-house” so everything is voice-activated and automated.
However, the house itself is not creepy. There is nothing supernatural going on with the house. After all, it was merely built by humans. As always, human beings are what you should watch out for.
A downright brilliant cast
Moving on to the other three key characters in The Girl Before, we must first look at the architect of the house. His name is Edward Monkford and he is quite the character. He has many rules for himself (and many others), but also manages to be very charming. Well, to the beings he wants to charm, anyway. Or, you know, the women!
David Oyelowo (Selma, The Midnight Sky) is simply brilliant as Edward. He is not an easy character because you keep wondering: Is he creepy or just very particular? Or maybe both?!
Ben Hardy (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Jessica Plummer round out the main cast. The two portray Simon and Emma respectively. They also live in this AI house at one point and clearly have issues. Or rather, Emma has serious trauma and Simon struggles with how to best help her.
As everyone will notice very quickly, Jane (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Emma (Jessica Plummer) have an eerie resemblance. I mean, they could be sisters or stand-ins for one another. Of course, this is no coincidence as Edward, the architect, and owner of the house, always picks out the people allowed to live in the house.
Over the course of the four episodes in this limited series, we follow the residents in many parallels. This is to make it creepily obvious just how similar the evolution of their stories is.
Watch The Girl Before on HBO Max now!
The Girl Before was based on the novel by J.P. Delaney. The author also adapted the novel into this limited series. This tends to be a very good thing, when possible. Just think of when Gillian Flynn worked with David Fincher to adapt her book into the 2014 movie Gone Girl.
Marissa Lestrade also took part in writing on some of the episodes. This is a screenwriter we’ll see more from soon since she’s also been working on the upcoming eco-thriller series The Swarm (2022). Not to be confused with the Netflix movie The Swarm from 2021.
This HBO Max and BBC One limited series is directed by Lisa Brühlmann. She previously directed on series such as Killing Eve and Servant (the M. Night Shyamalan Apple TV+ series).
And, of course, we also have to mention that she worked on Castle Rock (the HBO Stephen King series). Lisa Brühlmann does an excellent job of directing this limited series, which even feels like a horror story at times.
My one regret with The Girl Before is that the fourth and final episode is the weakest one. I simply didn’t buy into some of the plot twists. They didn’t feel all-together organic or believable to me. However, the final detail did work well for me. As a whole, this limited series definitely did work for me.
All 4 episodes of The Girl Before are out on HBO Max from February 10, 2022.
In the UK, The Girl Before premiered on BBC1 on Sunday, December 19, 2021, and all episodes are still available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
Writers: JP Delaney, Marissa Lestrade
Director: Lisa Brühlmann
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Jessica Plummer, Ben Hardy, Rakhee Thakrar, Amanda Drew, Mark Stanley, Ian Conningham
The Girl Before follows Jane, a young woman who gets the chance to rent One Folgate Street, a beautiful, ultra-minimalist home designed by Edward Monkford. Although it feels like a dream opportunity for her, there’s one catch: Jane must live by Edward’s rules whilst she’s staying in the house.
As time wears on, Jane starts to feel like the house is changing and affecting her. At some point, she makes a shocking discovery about the previous occupant, Emma, and is forced to confront some unnerving similarities between herself and Edward’s previous tenant.
As the two women’s timelines begin to overlap, Jane fears that what happened to Emma will also happen to her…
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