Review: 'She Dies Tomorrow' is an Eerie Depiction of Dreading Death
by Zofia Wijaszka
August 6, 2020
"We're all going to die at some point," says Jason (played by Chris Messina) at some point in She Dies Tomorrow, written and directed by Amy Seimetz (Sun Don't Shine). Those words brought me back to one particular moment of my childhood. It was late evening, and I was already lying down in my bed. The light was on because I refused to sleep in darkness. Suddenly, a horrible feeling came over me, and the few-year-old me started wailing. I ran to my parents, crying my eyes out. They hugged me and looked at me with concern in their eyes. "I'm very afraid of dying," I choked out. I don't remember the rest, or what my parents told me. But Neon's latest release made me think of that moment and every other one when I had a feeling of death creeping behind me. Seimetz makes sure that the audience will think about the film long after and crafts a narrative based around visualizing an eerie sense of anxiety and its contagious impact on others.
When Amy (played by Kate Lyn Sheil) wakes up, she's sure that she's going to die tomorrow. She doesn't mean suicide. She's simply convinced that some unknown force, maybe an accident or a health condition, will kill her. When struggling with the unbearable dread of the end coming, she picks her urn and plans to become a leather jacket after her undeniable end arrives. The feeling of horror escalates, accompanied by stimulating notes of "Le Portail Ouvre" by Mondo Boys. The idea of dying and that paranoia is infectious. Soon, her friend Jane (Jane Adams) feels the same way. Shared fright also attacks Jason (Messina), Susan (Katie Aselton), Craig (Kentucker Audley), and Tilly (Jennifer Kim). The chain reaction wakes the deepest, darkest realms of their anxiety and terror. Conviction about their impending death makes all the characters do things they'd never do before: euthanasia of lovaed one, or riding a monster truck-like vehicle.
Although She Dies Tomorrow takes its time and develops slowly, it eventually transforms into a gratifying display of madness. The first-rate cast chosen by Seimetz gives terrific performances. Their characters and the facts about them are not important – only their feelings and emotions. The audience has no idea where Sheil's character works or what she does in her life. We only know one matter: she's dying tomorrow. While slowing spiraling into insanity, the characters' actions hold an odd familiarity, such as Amy gently hugging the surface of the cold wall. Or Jane, telling the doctor (played by Josh Lucas) about locking everything before going to sleep yet still thinking about someone breaking in and brutally raping her. Any viewer can relate to the concerns of these characters and perceive them on a personal level.
Despite the fact that the roles are not fully developed and lack multidimensionality (that, however, is fixed by focusing on the feeling of lunacy and loneliness above all else), the direction is absolutely superb. The movie works loosely as an autobiography, one of the dark chapters of Seimetz's life. The director admitted that while she was dealing with anxiety from the past, she had no idea how it influenced loved ones around her. With the help of a brilliant cast and elements of fiction, she creates a picture that haunts the viewer.
Light and the use of lighting has a very significant place in Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow. In crucial scenes where paranoia pervades someone's mind, we observe the play of pink, blue, red, and green neon lights on startled facial expressions that give off a mysterious, gloomy atmosphere. Even the scene when the title card appears on the screen maintains that elevated mood, guided by disturbing opera music. While focusing on the main character, Seimetz uses every element around – the aforementioned surface of the wall, or the wood floor. All of this works together with the person in a each scene, creating a disturbing whole.
She Dies Tomorrow is a film that proves that words are more powerful than anything else. As we struggle with this global pandemic, this filmmaker offers another consideration - thoughts can be very contagious as well. The film helps envision the way that anxiety and fear can rule someone's life. Sometimes it's invisible while the person feels flames burning inside their body. That's what Seimetz showcases: the anxious feeling of death that paralyzes the characters although we can't see it. Every one of us has had feelings like those portrayed in this. It can hit suddenly. Occasionally it appears when something aches and we think, "oh no, I hope it's nothing serious, I hope it's not going to kill me." The movie left me with this odd feeling for some time. She Dies Tomorrow is an exceptional feast for the eyes and a treat for the mind – it's worth viewing.
Zofia's Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Follow Zofia on Twitter - @thefilmnerdette