She Dies Tomorrow, 2020.
Written and Directed by Amy Seimetz.
Starring Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Josh Lucas, Chris Messina, Michelle Rodriguez, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Katie Aselton, Adam Wingard, Tunde Adebimpe, Jennifer Kim, Kentucker Audley, and Madison Calderon.
Amy thinks she’s dying tomorrow…and it’s contagious.
The idea that a strong feeling can be contagious to extreme levels is already clever. A quickly approaching death being the thought process conveyed, only gives writer and director Amy Seimetz’s debut feature a profound sense of existentialist dread. She Dies Tomorrow unintentionally releasing during the middle of a global pandemic is enough to push the excellent minimalistic and experimental independent horror flick into the conversation as one of the best and most timely movies of the year. Even if you take away the disaster 2020 has been, She Dies Tomorrow is a winner based on Amy Seimetz’s ominous and dread-inducing craftsmanship alone.
Kate Lyn Sheil plays Amy (I suppose it’s very well possible that the thoughts of the character and core concept are an extension of the filmmaker herself), a woman that, with every fiber of her soul, believes she is going to die tomorrow. It’s not a premonition, simply just an unshakable gut feeling. As such, her behavior is unsettling, ranging from rubbing dirt all over herself outside to researching cremation prices, but then forgoing cremation altogether to look into having her remains turned into a leather jacket. It’s dark and disturbing material, with Amy Seimetz smartly planting the seed that we could also just be dealing with an alcoholic having a relapse.
That is until two different things happen. The first being a sort of psychedelic freak out aided by alternating moody color palettes with a variety of background noises that could either be people from a person’s past talking aloud or just random ambiance. This is what happens when someone is being placed under the hypnotic spell of accepting that they are going to die somehow and somewhere the next day. We then see a nonbeliever (to be fair, anyone would assume Amy is crazy here) in Jane (Jane Adams) writing it off as the behavior of a substance-abusing lunatic, only to be overcome with the same sensations. From there, she heads over to a family birthday party, and so goes the cycle.
Not that there is much plot to begin with, considering She Dies Tomorrow is a heavy atmospheric experience first and foremost, but that’s all I really want to say about the unfolding narrative. Amy Seimetz seems aware that she doesn’t have to fully flesh these characters out (although we do get sparse details such as Amy once having had an abortion, making for one of the film’s only dialogue-driven sequences and a damn compelling one at that), trusting her actors that the feelings they convey will elicit an uneasy response from viewers. A bit more characterization would be appreciated, but it’s also hard to fault her for stripping things down to the bare minimum.
The characters believe that they are going to die like the feeling is a disease that can’t be cured. However, the horror here comes from the fact that just about anyone that watches the movie can most likely draw upon a similar experience; years ago after being in a car accident, it took a while before I began to feel safe on the road again. Basically, there was a strong sense that it was going to happen again. Bringing this into the year 2020 itself, it’s not so much a belief that I will die tomorrow, but a fear that tomorrow, despite all levels of precautions, will be the day I come down with the coronavirus. She Dies Tomorrow is more than just a morbid look at people accepting death, it captures a worldwide relatable sensation of the world on film like lightning in a bottle. You think this movie is hard and tense to watch being an average person? Try understanding that but from the perspective of an immunocompromised person such as myself.
That’s not to say the only way to enjoy She Dies Tomorrow is to bring your own personal baggage into a viewing, as the film does take its characters on short and sweet journeys that wisely make use of the film’s brisk but usually encapsulating 85-minute running time. Anyone and everyone would quickly start living life in different ways if they knew their existence was rapidly ticking away, and that’s no exception here. The results are a combination of riveting drama and gallows humor, always complementing one another.
Amy Seimetz utilizes a deliberately slow pace to analyze everything from the past to regrets to the here and the now. A few parts are a little slow and the characters themselves could maybe be a little more defined, but what’s here is undeniably powerful in tone; everyone in front of the camera deserves praise for selling the abstract concept with believable conviction. She Dies Tomorrow eats away at the soul, offering no solutions; there are none. It’s a quiet and subtle study of a small group of people wrestling with the information of guaranteed impending death, where the real kick in the face comes from the realization that we as a society are doing the same thing every day.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com