By Bradley Lane
New movies during the pandemic, and in the absence of movie theaters, were few and far between for movie lovers, and even more rare was the release of good new movies. This is exactly why writer-director Amy Seimetz’s new film She Dies Tomorrow was so refreshing. It was so effective in communicating its themes precisely because, whether intentional or not, the film plays directly into the modern fears associated with living day-to-day in the age of coronavirus.
The conceit of She Dies Tomorrow is explained right in the title; our protagonist Amy, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, gets the overwhelming feeling, the knowledge even, that she will die tomorrow. This viscerally uncomfortable feeling leads her first to excruciatingly deep existential dread, and later to unforeseen clarity on her own perspective. However, the film builds on this already interesting concept, when Jane, played by Jane Adams, comes to visit Amy and begins to experience the same overwhelming dread that she too will be dead by the next day.
I want to heap praise on this film, but I think it is important to set expectations in this case because the film toes the line between narrative and formless experimentation in ways the average viewer might find challenging or outright frustrating. The underlying reasons for the feelings experienced by the characters in the film are not at all fleshed out in some grand conspiracy and are left mostly ambiguous in the film. Despite this in universe rejection of explicit explanation, it is not difficult to draw comparisons to anxieties relating to current events and an individual’s heightened sense of existential dread.
However, the movie is far more concerned with characters’ reactions to these anxieties than their root causes. Throughout the film, Seimetz’s characters all become plagued with the same acute sense of mortality and the film’s central conflict comes about in how each of the different characters deal with that feeling. Some confess deep regrets, others try and get as much done as they can before they die, and a select few cave into despair. They become a reflection of what matters to each of their characters, and as the audience wades deeper into the film, what matters to the viewer.
The one thing made clear in the script, despite layers of mystery and intrigue, is the utterly meaningless of daily life in the face of the fact that death is an inevitability for each of us. It is an ambitious film that, at its center, is an attempt to deepen the audience’s relationship with their own mortality. And through this narrative framework, the film reveals itself to serve a grand purpose for the viewer, to help to re-evaluate what is, and is not valuable in the lives of each person who watches the film.
She Dies Tomorrow is worth a revisit and available to stream on Hulu and for free on Kanopy now. – 4.5/5 stars