REVIEW: She Dies Tomorrow (2020)
Amy Seimetz is an actor, writer, director and producer. She produced Barry Jenkins’ debut film Medicine for Melancholy (2008), directed Sun Don’t Shine (2012) and has acted in a diverse range of TV roles, as well as films including Lovesong (2016), Lean on Pete (2017), Wild Nights with Emily (2018) and Pet Sematary (2019). She now has given us the gift of another film that unintentionally dove-tails extremely well with this strange time in our lives (much like Palm Springs did earlier this month).
Kate Lyn Sheil plays Amy, a woman who has just moved into a new apartment, when she is suddenly overcome with the powerful certainty that she will die the following day. She calls her best friend Jane (Jane Adams) who visits her and then experiences the same feeling and she, in turn passes it on to her brother Jason (Chris Messina) and his wife Susan (Katie Aselton). Everyone’s reactions to their impending demise varies – Amy’s way of coping is to put on her sparkliest disco outfit, get wine-drunk and listen to Mozart’s Lacrimosa (Our Lady of Sorrows) Requiem on repeat. She also contemplates being made into a leather jacket posthumously and goes dune-buggy riding.
Jane Adams is a fantastic character actor, who left a huge impression in Todd Solondz’s 1998 film Happiness (which is no mean feat when Philip Seymour-Hoffman is also in the cast). She has also appeared in Wonder Boys, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Brigsby Bear. Her character here spends the entire film in her pyjamas and creates intrigue with experiments she’s doing, examining something unspecified under a microscope that she clearly has a close connection to. Her strained and awkward relationship with her sister-in-law Susan is the source of much of the humour in the film. Her gasp when the lights go out and Susan’s birthday cake comes out being one hilarious highlight.
When each character has the realisation of what is about to happen to them, they experience a kind of trance-like state, enhanced by coloured lighting and flashing images (be warned). The music and dreamy visuals combine to create a trippy psychedelic landscape. But even in these sequences, where you can see the characters breaking down as they attempt to process the worst possible news, Seimetz’s sly humour comes through. The soundtrack is by Mondo Boys, who have taken the Lacrimosa theme and used it as a basis for a twisted, distorted aural experience. This requiem follows Jane as well as Amy, a refrain that is haunting the characters, or perhaps warning them, or even comforting them – like many aspects of the film, it is left up to our interpretation.
One of the film’s biggest stars – Michelle Rodriguez – only appears as a cameo, onscreen for a few minutes towards the end, but this is one of the most powerful and effective segments. I hesitate to bring Palm Springs up again, but as the characters in that time-loop film drift aimlessly in swimming pools for much of the movie (like Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate), here Jane uses a swimming pool much more purposefully. It is a ritualistic cleansing, as Jane is surrounded by blood and women, which perhaps is a connection to the repeated use of the hymnal music, with its reference to the Virgin Mary.
She Dies Tomorrow‘s themes have accidentally coincided with feelings that many people are experiencing at the moment, such as existential dread and ennui. I hesitate to dive into any messaging behind the film, because it is very clear that Seimetz is leaving things as ambiguous, subjective and open-ended as possible. It is definitely the kind of film that will have different meanings to different people and that will deeply resonate with some, while perhaps leaving others cold. This makes it sound as if it is portentous or pretentious, but it’s also extremely funny. As you can probably tell from this review, She Dies Tomorrow is extremely hard to describe and it’s much better to experience it for yourself. It is certainly hard to define or pigeonhole to any one genre, but will definitely stimulate the mind, senses and emotions. A provocative, exciting, unusual film from a filmmaker I hope to see much more from.
She Dies Tomorrow arrives on Curzon Home Cinema and Digital Download 28th August
Directed by: Amy Seimetz
Written by: Amy Seimetz
Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley