She Dies Tomorrow is the latest film from writer/director/actress Amy Seimetz. It is her second feature film in the director’s chair, but she has directed a fair amount of TV including some episodes of Atlanta (the best show currently on TV). Having not seen her directorial debut, Sun Don’t Shine, this was my introduction to Seimetz as a feature film director and since she directed two great episodes of Atlanta, including one of the most interesting episodes of the show, I was curious to see this film. I am happy to report that She Dies Tomorrow is quite good and timely.
I would personally recommend going into this film with as little knowledge about the plot as possible, because it’s a pretty fun experience to figure out what precisely is going on (the IMDb plot synopsis also gives a big detail away). Because of how fun it was to experience the film with little knowledge, I will be pretty vague in my plot details and will not be giving what I found to be a surprising development away.
She Dies Tomorrow follows Amy, a woman who appears to carry quite a lot of emotional baggage and pain. Amy has relapsed after abstaining from alcohol for an undisclosed amount of time and is spending her evening doing some rather peculiar, and in some cases, repetitive acts. She calls her friend Jane (Jane Adams) because she doesn’t want to be alone, but Jane seems less than concerned. With Amy, this is a normal occurrence. However, there is something that makes tonight dissimilar to others: Amy is certain that she is going to die tomorrow.
Actress Kate Lyn Sheil portrays Amy, and she gives a very good performance with a lot of ambiguity that I found to be effective and sometimes pretty chilling. Jane Adams is impressive as well; she is almost secretly the star of the film in the sense that she probably has the most screen time. There are also a few roles late in the film played by pretty famous actors that, in a movie that feels so small, were just a little distracting, especially since they are only in a single scene. This is a very small complaint, and I only mention it because I wonder how those scenes would have felt with less familiar faces in them. They could have possibly been even more effective.
For me, the true standout of the film was Seimetz’s direction. She Dies Tomorrow is a fantastic looking film, with some moments of beauty that perfectly contrast some more disturbing and troubling moments. Seimetz is able to capture a feeling of impending doom that is really uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing (oftentimes aided by the performances). She also uses color in very effective and striking ways. She shows a lot of promise as a director, and I hope at some point she gets the opportunity to make something even more ambitious.
While I, for the most part, found this film to be quite good, with the longer this film goes on, the more aimless and unfocused it feels. I have thought a lot about this film and what it means since viewing it (which is a compliment). The film may have worked better if fewer characters were the focus. Some characters feel like an afterthought, and each time the film would cut back to them, I would wonder what the point was in continuing to keep them as part of the narrative.
Thematically, I saw She Dies Tomorrow to be about mental illness and specifically, how mental illness controls the lives of those it resides in, but also how it impacts the people who surround them. How sometimes people can be desensitized and even unsympathetic to mental illness. I found this to be a powerful message, and I do think this film could result in multiple distinct readings by different viewers that have nothing to do with what I just described. In my opinion, that is the sign of a strong piece of art.
As I mentioned before, I feel this could have come across better with less focus on secondary characters. I think this film could have worked better by leaving more to the imagination on that front. Though in a year where anxiety and depression have invaded the lives of so many due to the events of the world, I think this is an important message to have occupy what is, in some ways, a genre film.
She Dies Tomorrow is definitely feels very apt for the hellish year of 2020 and deeply relevant to the age of COVID-19. Even beyond that, what it feels like to live in a world that feels controlled by a potentially lethal virus in multiple ways. It has been impossible to not view certain films of 2020 with this lens (Palm Springs and The Beach House being two recent examples) and honestly, She Dies Tomorrow almost feels like a film made after the fact. It is just bizarre how we have watched movies this year, sometimes in a way that makes them more impactful.
She Dies Tomorrow is well worth your time. The film boasts a narrative that is really fun to discover due to very good performances, strong and confident direction, and thematic weight that feels timely and important. Amy Seimetz also shows a lot of promise as a filmmaker, especially on a visual level. In a year filled with so much anxiety surrounding not only the world surrounding us, but the people within it, She Dies Tomorrow is not only timely, but even cathartic.
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