She Dies Tomorrow

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

sheil and audley
dir-scr Amy Seimetz
prd Amy Seimetz, David Lawson Jr, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson
with Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Katie Aselton, Chris Messina, Tunde Adebimpe, Jennifer Kim, Josh Lucas, Adam Wingard, Michelle Rodriguez, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Madison Calderon
release US 7.Aug.20,
UK 28.Aug.20
20/US 1h26

adams messina rodriguez

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She Dies Tomorrow
There's a strongly visceral visual sensibility to this offbeat freak-out, as evocative imagery and jagged editing bring the audience into the mind of various people who are struggling to cope. Writer-director Amy Seimetz skilfully blurs the lines between comedy and horror, creating a story that eerily parallels the spread of a pandemic. It's an unusually unsettling movie, playing on deep-seated fears to scare the life out of us.
After moving into a new house, Amy (Sheil) wakes up with the overpowering sense that she has just one day to live. She reaches out to her friend Jane (Adams), who comes to visit but blames the premonition on Amy's alcoholic relapse. Then Jane starts to feel the same, and she begins to think it's something contagious. Indeed, Amy recalls perhaps catching it from Craig (Audley in extended flashbacks). For help, Jane turns to her brother Jason (Messina) and angry sister-in-law Susan (Aselton), but this engulfing sense of fatalism spreads to them as well.
Seimetz inventively juxtaposes witty camera angles with flickering colours, intense music and jarring cutaways, telling much of this story without the need for dialog. And the emotional intensity makes the film riveting, as an increasing number of characters grapple with their mortality in unexpected ways. Amy goes thrill-seeking with a dune buggy driver (Wingard). Jane visits a doctor (Lucas) and tries to dig deeper into the mystery. Jason and Susan hug their child. Their friends Brian and Tilly (Adebimpe and Kim) take stock of their lives.

From the start, Sheil's performance is full-bodied and hauntingly emotional. For the first 15 minutes, she's on-screen alone, wordlessly expressing the turmoil that's growing inside her. Adams has the other prominent role, and digs almost uncomfortably deep as well. As this contagion spreads, more characters are forced to confront the darkest thoughts imaginable, and each of the actors is excellent, finding realistic, unexpected rhythms and textures in their roles.

It's unusual to see a scary movie that so expertly cuts through the surfaces, terrifying us on an internal level that plays on our fears about death. Not many films can unnerve us on such a primal level, forcing us to explore feelings we'd normally prefer not to face. So in addition to being a profoundly frightening movie, but it has something to say about the worries we carry with us every day. Then in the light of the next morning, everything looks different for these people. And probably for us too.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 25.Aug.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall