The Girl Before review: Jessica Plummer is the highlight of unsettling JP Delaney drama on BBC One

the girl before bbc one david oyelowo gugu mbatha raw jessica plummer jp delaney

The Girl Before is pitched somewhere between psychological thriller and domestic noir. It’s about two young women, Jane (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Emma (Jessica Plummer), who move into the same house three years apart: the four-part drama unfolds in two halves, tracing their lives and how the house changes them, with Jane slowly realising what happened to previous tenant Emma. There’s something faintly reminiscent of the Bluebeard fable about it, and any retelling of that you might care to name – in this case, though, the house isn’t a gothic castle but a hyperminimalist architectural experiment, closely monitored by its designer and owner Edward Monkford (David Oyelowo).

Monkford insists that anyone living there must follow his strict, exacting rules: no decorations, no mess, no personal items. The house is maintained by what is in effect a sophisticated Alexa type device, which records and archives data about Emma and Jane and their living habits. It enforces Monkford’s rules, too, imposing a different structure on their lives (an electric toothbrush stops working after exactly two minutes, the shower won’t work until they take a short survey, the lights turn out at the same time each night, etc). The technology itself admittedly feels a little far-fetched at times, but that never quite matters as The Girl Before does a good job of convincing on the more important emotional truth of it all, i.e. why these two women (each trying to take control of their life again after recent trauma) would choose to enter such a peculiar living arrangement.

Another review for National World. I wrote this piece after having only seen the first two episodes of The Girl Before; while I was really impressed by the opening installments of the miniseries, the second half left me feeling much cooler on the whole thing. (On the basis of the first two, I thought about including the show in my end-of-year Best of 2021 list – after the last two, it slipped off the rankings entirely.)

I wrote another piece for NationalWorld about The Girl Before, a sort of SEO-driven type thing with introductions to the cast. I’m just linking it here because it’s slightly more substantial than most SEO explainers, with some recommendations as to other projects the leads star in that might be worth checking out – suspect I’ll end up writing that sort of thing a lot, and I won’t give them each their own dedicated blogpost, but I’ll probably link the more worthwhile of them alongside reviews, that sort of thing.

Related:

Inspired by Real Events: The Serpent, The Investigation, and true crime drama

You can find more of my writing about television here, and follow me on twitter @morelandwriter.

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