Director Abner Pastoll’s icy Irish thriller opens brilliantly with a blood smudged woman showering while an ominous score throbs in the backdrop, implying something petrifying is about to happen. The music explodes into a terrifying crescendo as the scene flits into a low gliding aerial view of a suburban neighbourhood, recalling the eerie intro to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
We then dart back in time to meet protagonist Sarah (Sarah Bolger): a twenty-something, single mother, battling grief following the recent death of her husband. Sarah’s life is then hurled into further turmoil after local ruffian Tito (Andrew Simpson) breaks into her home to hide a stash of cocaine he stole from local gangsters.
After a quite tight set-up, Ronan Blaney’s script simmers during slow scenes establishing secondary characters, which are hugely detrimental to the temper and flow. While more emphasis should have been on plot progression, Sarah is soon placed in greater peril when people from her husband’s past arrive and pose a threat to her family.
The script swiftly quickens after Act 2’s dip, and tension heightens when AGWIHTF buds into less of a character study, but a tighter, intense and more terrifying chiller featuring wince triggering, bone cracking, limb ripping violence and scary new antagonists. Local gang leader Leo (Edward Hogg) takes centre stage as the plot unravels. Despite him seeming stereotypical, he is brilliantly played.
Bolger also shows remarkable depth, range and restraint as Sarah; conveying effects of multiple hardships while battling on admirably, which helps viewers empathise. Sarah adopts the fight over flight mantra while cracks suggesting underlying weaknesses authenticate her character. These imply she could snap at any moment; augmenting both the tension and her multiple plights. Encounters with local police, Social Services and her prying mother also edge Sarah closer to psychosis but sometimes seem like overkill and slightly hinder the plot progression/ pace.
Suspense is hoisted by excellent acting but also through Pastoll’s arresting direction. After his second feature Road Games signalled him out as a film-maker to look out for, Pastoll’s third film is another step up for the director, demonstrating greater adeptness and grasp of production, craft, concept, genre and characters; for his latest is a riveting suburban thriller which burns slow but quickens its pace before exploding into an extraordinary finale.
Despite losing focus and footing slightly early on, by developing secondary character connections/ relationships and a two-dimensional, but brilliantly brought to life, key antagonist, AGWIHTF ultimately resounds as an involving, moody revenge/ survival/ crime horror bolstered by script twists, realism, violence, family drama and phenomenal performances which help it recover slightly from that post-first act sag and stereotypes.***
Abner Pastoll ups his game again and signals himself out as a director to look out for with a sometimes slow, but often thrilling third feature.