Director: Amy Seimetz
Writer: Amy Seimetz
Starring: Kate Lyn Shell, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley
Genre: Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Amy (Lyn Shell) has just purchased a house, however instead of feeling elated by this, she is very distant and morose due to the fact that she is convinced that she is going to die tomorrow, even though she cannot explain how or why. Her friend Jane (Adams) goes to see her and immediately dismisses this due to the fact that Amy, a former alcoholic, has been drinking. However, Jane soon finds herself being also convinced that she too will die tomorrow, and as Jane speaks to various other people about this, they also in-turn start to firmly believe that they will also die tomorrow.
Though She Dies Tomorrow was apparently made before covid-19 was a thing, it certainly does serve to have a degree of prevalence with regards to what is happening within society at the moment; the prevalence of death has sadly become more common place in most countries this year, but there has also arguably been a certain degree of mass hysteria created by the media (and maybe to a much lesser extent by actual people) that may well have made us all not only aware, but also wary of our own mortality. She Dies Tomorrow very much has the idea of thanatophobia (the anxiety caused by a fear of one’s own death) at the heart of its narrative, but certainly also serves as a very effective allegory for current times and how feelings of excessive fear are extremely contagious. This pretty much goes back to Tommy Lee Jones theory in Men in Black with regards to the difference between a ‘person’ and ‘people’.
Amy Seimetz’s film is very much made on its own terms by keeping its cards very close to its chest and having very little exposition, and it makes no apologies for doing so. She Dies Tomorrow will therefore inevitably have people queuing up to say how much they love it so that they can come across as cultured or clever, while there will be those that absolutely hate it and state that nothing happens – in fact, most of these people seem to have written reviews on imdb! Of course ‘nothing’ happening is in itself ‘something’ and while this may disappoint some, I am very much in the middle – for me She Dies Tomorrow is a very effective and atmospheric film with some memorable and haunting moments that do poignantly examine the seemingly meaningless nature of life, but it just does not have the substance to fully develop its potentially interesting initial concept.
Things do certainly start off quite intriguing as we begin with scenes of the main character of Amy walking around in her large house on her own. There is very little dialogue, and Kate Lyn Shell’s stunning performance means that there are a lot of questions posed as we inevitably question why Amy is behaving the way she is. As we not only learn of Amy’s backstory that explains why she has become the way she is, but also how this influences those she meets, and then how this has a butterfly effect on the people those people also then meet (in a way that is not too dissimilar to the much referred to ‘R rate’ of Covid 19). This certainly allows the narrative to ask some very poignant questions about the whole point of life in general, and if we know that we are going to die tomorrow, then how would we react? We would of course like to respond by saying that we would ‘live life to the full’ (whatever that truly means) and other clichés, and while our protagonist does hire and drive a dune buggy, most of the characters remain sombre, reflective and almost devoid of any energy or motivation – and in some cases commit what to us seem like completely irrational acts when taken out of context. Acceptance of one’s mortality (especially if it is supposedly the next day) does ultimately render everything to be completely pointless, and some characters do discuss the superficial banality of everyday life, but then how something as seemingly simple as a sunset is the most beautiful experience there is – especially when put it into the context of someone ‘knowing’ that it will be the last sunset they experience.
There is no denying that She Dies Tomorrow does have some very interesting and poignant moments that seem particularly prevalent in today’s covid-19 world, and that in the grand scheme of things human life is actually quite pointless. Before a group of characters get the ‘bug’ they discuss ‘dolphin fucking’, and this is a timely reminder of the seemingly pointless conversations we all have with one another – but then if we are having a good time and making each other laugh, is it actually pointless? These are questions the film attempts to ask, but it certainly does not even attempt to answer them, but then, how could it?
One of the many frustrations people seem to have with She Dies Tomorrow is its depiction of what causes the spread of the thanatophobia, and while this is very ambiguous, that is surely the point? It is depicted visually by a dark, brooding soundtrack and characters looking blankly ahead into the abyss while the visual colours of the screen change from shades of red, to green, to blue, along with some disturbing visuals that are admittedly stolen from a David Lynch film. At the end of the day this is in the character’s minds, and so I would argue that this plays a very effective way in visually depicting the inner emotional turmoil of these characters – what they experience and feel is not exactly a tangible and physical thing – it is a very personal and lonely feeling they experience that is almost impossible to put into words, just like so many of our own personal experiences and feelings. However, what is shown does effectively capture the feelings of panic, dread, shock and loneliness that the characters do feel as they try (and fail) to come to terms with this supposed knowledge they have that they will die the next day.
Though She Dies Tomorrow may well contain a very potentially interesting and poignant concept, it does struggle to fill a feature length running time, and though the more sensible and intelligent film fan would not want some lazy final third that undermines and trivializes what has preceded it, it does seem that Seimtez does struggle to figure out how to end her film and indeed fill a feature length running time, and so she just introduces more characters that add absolutely nothing to the overall story and just undermine a lot of the good work that the first two thirds do. This is a shame, as though She Dies Tomorrow does have some very haunting moments that do feel quite allegorical, it is definitely a film that could have done more.
Despite a very promising start and some very effective individual moments that are accidentally prevalent to our current times, She Dies Tomorrow fails to fully capitalise on its initial premise, but still has some very effective and poignant moments.
At time of writing She Dies Tomorrow is available to stream on various platforms