She Dies Tomorrow.
Maybe. But she’s fairly certain that she will.
Written and directed by Amy Seimetz, She Dies Tomorrow introduces us to Amy (Kate Lyn Shell), a young woman who is convinced that her life will come to an end the next day. While she has no idea how or when it may take place, her belief in her oncoming death is so strong that she remains frozen within its grasp and virtually immobile on her living room floor. Worried about her safety, Amy’s friend, Jane (Jane Adams) rushes to her home to check on her. However, after listening to Amy’s anxieties, she soon begins to carry the same fears about her own life and she passes those along to others.
Poetic and visceral, Seimetz’s film is a cinematic ode to pain and suffering. While the film features fascinating performances, it’s Seimetz’s use of visuals that are most notable within the film. Filling her screen with a terrifying mixture of shadows and light, she purposefully crafts every moment within Tomorrow to make the viewer uncomfortable. Through her use of long takes, bleeding colours and alternating between awkward silence and classical music, Seimetz presents the viewer with a graphic representation of the filtered mind of someone who suffers from severe depression and anxiety. This is not a film that wants you to like it.
It’s a film that wants you to feel it.
While she has no specific reason to suspect her own death, Amy lives in a constant state of self-loathing and fear. Having lost all hope, Amy fears the rise of a new day and what trauma it could potentially bring along with it. Hers is a life that has become entirely bereft of the underpinnings of optimism at the hands of chance and self-loathing. However, what’s most terrifying about Tomorrow may not be what happens to Amy but rather the affect she has on the world around her.
Though she never intends to pass her feeling onto others, her friends are soon reshaped by her pain. Moving like a virus (which seems appropriate in during a global pandemic), this loss of hope and fear of the future infects one person after another, eating away at their psyches and personal relationships. In many ways, the expediency of the anxiety points to the fragility of the human psyche, especially as it pertains to the concept of death and the unknown. For example, though her family lives seem stable, Jane’s suspicion of her own imminent demise causes their world to shatter as well. As they question their own mortality, their blissful ignorance is lost and celebrating a birthday becomes a pointless exercise.
As such, hope is a commodity easily lost in She Dies Tomorrow. Having placed their confidence solely in innocence, each character allows the creeping doubt of mystery to dissolve their faith in a future. As such, the film leaves more questions than answers regarding any form of joy that can be had in our lives, especially if death awaits us all around any corner. While this is undoubtedly a bleak perspective, Seimetz’s script is willing to simmer within it. Whereas some films argue for finding hope in relationships, romantic love or a belief in God, Tomorrow is looking for something tangible that it never truly finds.
In Tomorrow, hope simply has no foundation upon which to take root.
Famed critic Roger Ebert once said before he died that ‘every movie needs to offer some sense of hope’. While it need not resolve all its issues or answer all its questions, he meant to suggest that hopefulness at some level was essential for the best scripts to land with the audience. At best, Seimetz offers the viewer the possibility of moving forward by allowing Amy to understand that ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. Having struggled with depression myself, I can attest to the fact that this is realization can be freeing to the human soul on many levels. Nevertheless, that small breath of air that the film offers remains very little and leaves the viewer with little to stand on.
Although credit must be given to Seimetz for bravely delving into the pain of depression, She Dies Tomorrow is an undoubtedly difficult film to watch. Beautiful and challenging, this is a film that requires a great deal of patience and courage to engage at the soul level. While pain is never an easy thing to watch, it is even more difficult to see it spread through others like a cancer, decimating all in its path. As such, whether or not She Dies Tomorrow is not the question that the film wants to ask. Instead, Tomorrow is most interested in looking for a reason to continue living.
She Dies Tomorrow premieres on VOD on August 7th, 2020.