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

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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.

Omari Douglas on It’s A Sin, moving from stage to screen, and more

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One thing that’s clear about Douglas is how much he values collaboration, how important that is to his creative process. Asked about his biggest influences, he doesn’t highlight a particular childhood inspiration as many actors often do, but instead talks about how much he’s learned from the people he worked with. “I was learning as I went on. I was surrounded by so many brilliant people – I was inspired every day just seeing the work of my friends, the people I was acting alongside.”

“But then wider than that,” he elaborates, “just the craftsmanship that goes into putting a piece of this scale together, so many different departments coming together. There are hundreds more people working on a television production than you’d find in theatre, but it was [just as] collaborative. And I was really grateful for that, I felt supported. I felt invigorated and inspired every day.”

Another piece for the Radio Times! This has been in the works for a while now, actually – I think this piece might’ve had one of the longest durations between arranging the interview, conducting the interview, and publishing the interview? Worth the wait, anyway, I’m quite pleased with how this turned out.

Omari’s great in It’s A Sin, too – he really deftly handles what is, narratively, quite a deceptively complex role? Looking forward to seeing what everyone makes of the show; it’s quite unlike anything Russell T Davies has done before, I think. (In some ways, anyway, there’s a lot of it that’s absolutely of a piece with his other shows.)

You can find more of my interviews here, and follow me on twitter @morelandwriter. If you enjoyed reading this piece – or if you didn’t – perhaps consider leaving a tip on ko-fi?