Director Mairin O’Hagan grew up between parents in the west coast of Scotland and Warwickshire. After an English degree and drama school, she now lives in London where she works as a writer and filmmaker. She set up a company, ‘Barefaced Greek,’ and learnt the process of filmmaking through producing shorts based on ancient Greek drama. She also runs ‘Queynte Laydies’ with partner Sarah Anson, a female-led company interested in women’s stories from history, where she writes and directs theatre and comedy.
Mairin has written scripts and adaptations for TV and feature film.
This is her first film as director.
When people die, they leave behind a trail of possessions and communications for their loved ones to sort through. In my own experiences of bereavement, I have found it so hard to let go of the possessions left behind by my father and my much-loved grandparents because they feel like little pieces of connection that I don’t want to lose. I’m always taken by surprise when I see a piece of handwriting that belonged to someone I loved who is no longer alive—it’s so instantly recognisable, so specific to that person, formed over years of practice and self-definition. The character of Emma was someone I immediately cared for as a woman struggling with letting go after a great loss, in a house packed full of the possessions accumulated during a relationship that spanned decades. I was drawn to this film as a portrait of grief and the internal resistance that we feel when it comes to letting go of someone we’ve lost. I love the setting of this film in Sussex, where the stormy, wintry landscape beautifully reflects Emma’s sense of desertion and isolation, as well as contributing to the atmosphere of horror in the film.
I love the Thomas Hardy poem that inspired the film. In it, Hardy asks his dead wife: “why do you make me leave the house, and think for a breath it is you I see?” He writes as though the power of this woman’s memory is enough to control this living man’s behaviour, to “make” him do things. I was interested to explore where ghosts might come from, are they real entities that can make us perform to their will, or are they something we summon into existence when we don’t feel ready to let go of what we’ve lost? I love the certainty with which Hardy poses this question of his wife, accompanied by the doubt and mystery that comes with trying to get one’s head around death.