- She Dies Tomorrow
- Written and directed by Amy Seimetz
- Starring Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams and Chris Messina
- Classification R; 84 minutes
There is prescience, and then there is profundity. Sometimes, the two can get confused, especially in our current moment, when we gaze hard at all the pop culture produced just before the pandemic, trying to find some kind of meaning out of it all. It no doubt helps us to feel that some artist out there predicted this insanity in one form or another – that it didn’t just randomly happen. Because if a director or writer or performer figured that something like this was coming, then someone else can navigate a way out of it, too.
Really, though, this is all a strained way of pleading with the universe to not mess around with Amy Seimetz. With her new film She Dies Tomorrow, the writer-director splays out our current reality with such nerve and cunning that I can only assume and hope that she has just as sharply focused an eye on what happens next. It might be wishful thinking that could amount to nothing. But after watching She Dies Tomorrow, I am ready to open my mind to all sorts of unexpected possibilities.
Seimetz’s work is brutal in its simplicity. One day, Amy (played not by the sometimes-actress Seimetz but by her fellow American indie-film staple Kate Lyn Sheil) comes to a startling realization: she is going to die tomorrow. And there is nothing that she, or anyone else, can do about it. Maybe Amy’s state of mind is the product of too many drinks, too many pills or too harsh a comedown from a recent relationship disaster; it doesn’t much matter. Tomorrow is coming, which means that her life is ending. And then things get strange.
After relaying her belief to a friend (Jane Adams), who then tells her brother (Chris Messina), who then repeats it to his wife (Katie Aselton), the fatalism seems to turn contagious. It is no longer just Amy who knows that tomorrow is the end, but her social circle, then her town, and so on. What begins as an isolated case of anxiety turns Amy’s entire world on its head, until everyone is convinced that the worst is inevitable.
In a different sort of movie, this blanket of unease might feel unbelievable or like a cheap narrative device – instead of zombies, the world is succumbing to extreme pessimism. The horror. But Seimetz is only borrowing the framework of a contagion movie, preferring to create a terror that is more dream-like than visceral. There is no blood or violence, with the only assaultive element of the film being Seimetz’s decision to play Mozart’s Requiem over and over again to a comical degree. Typically, the Lacrimosa portion of the music is used in a film or TV series to herald the end times. But here, it is employed as a reminder from the director that this film isn’t going to be a standard operatic ode to the apocalypse.
The performances align with this unusual bent, too. Adams, Messina and Aselton all make the unbelievable real. But it is Sheil who leaves the harshest mark as Amy, balancing quiet devastation with a darkly funny resignation. Late in the film, her character makes an unexpected connection with a dune-buggy driver, resulting in a moment that is touching, strange and shiver-inducing at the same time. That the aforementioned dune-buggy enthusiast is played by Adam Wingard, a filmmaker known for his devoted odes to conventional horror (You’re Next, The Guest), is all part of Seimetz’s genre-ignorant fun.
So while Seimetz’s refusal to play by any conventional rules will likely irk audiences expecting chaos and all the usual after-effects of realizing that the world is over, it is important to note that she simply doesn’t care. Seimetz is not interested in creating something expected or anything that has been seen before. In its cautious rhythm, its economical storytelling and its deliberately over-the-top colour scheme – each character’s “infection,” so to speak, is back-lit by deeply saturated red and blues – She Dies Tomorrow unsettles without using any of cinema’s typical tools.
Watch the film with someone you love – because, who knows, it might be the last movie you ever see.
She Dies Tomorrow is available digitally on-demand starting Aug. 4
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