She Dies Tomorrow (2020)
Written & Directed by Amy Seimetz
The world is a scary place right now, fueled by a mix of real horrors and a general sense of growing uneasiness with modern life. People seem to be inching towards a collective mass mental breakdown that is playing out on viral videos peppered across social media. The American population is being confronted with its mortality in a stark manner that you can see is not setting well. Some people are in outright denial and become unhinged, encountering others who very proactively try to keep themselves and others healthy. These anxieties and contemplations of death are what make up the nightmarish ground She Dies Tomorrow covers.
Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) comes home late one night and slips into a strange cycle of behavior, drinking wine, playing a record over and over again, wandering the property of her newly purchased house. She calls her friend Jane (Jane Addams), who wavers between checking on Amy and going to her sister-in-law’s birthday party. Jane ultimately visits Amy, who proclaims that she’s going to die tomorrow. Jane tries to convince her friend she is wrong but eventually has to leave. Back in her own home, Jane is suddenly overcome with doom, that she too is going to die the next day. Feeling uneasy, Jane goes over to her brother’s home, where only a few people are still there as the party wraps up. It becomes clear that this existential terror is a bizarre type of psychological virus as it spreads.
She Dies Tomorrow is a profoundly impressionistic film, and writer-director Amy Seimetz is disinterested in conventional explanations or standard narrative structures. This is a mood piece that seeks to explore the ways people process a direct confrontation with their own mortality. Part of what Seimetz is doing is looking at how people choose to spend their time when they know they are going to die. Amy loses all sense of direction or priorities and just wastes away. She mentions being sober for a considerable amount of time but has given it all up now that she believes her life is over.
Brian, a party attendee who becomes infected, goes to the hospital and takes his father off life support, not wanting his old man to suffer any longer. Brian’s girlfriend, Tilly, reveals that she wants to break up with him and was waiting for his father to pass before she did so. Brian accepts this with complete disinterested passivity. Seimetz seems to believe that if people were hit with such a massive shake-up to the foundations of their lives, they would abandon the pretense of shallow relationships and not think twice. This, in turn, forces us to ask ourselves, why do we maintain these empty connections anyway?
It’s important to note we never see anyone die in the entire film. There’s one dead body that appears to be suicide, so it’s never made concrete if the mental disorder causes death or simply plants a seed in the minds of these people. The irony is is that we all know we are going to die, but we rarely live in a way that acknowledges that fact. American culture is highly uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with death. I think about the 160,000 and growing dead from COVID-19 and how there hasn’t been a moment of mourning at any point of this pandemic. Maybe because it’s still happening? Perhaps we will mourn when it is “over,” or maybe people will try to act like it never happened.
I enjoyed a lot about She Dies Tomorrow, but I think we were kept too distant from the characters. As I was watching, I kept thinking about how this would have made a fantastic novel where we could peer into the minds of characters a little more easily. However, it is very much something that needs to exist on film as Seimetz plays with color and sound so skillfully to evoke an unsettlingly psychedelic atmosphere. Indecision creeps in by the end of the movie with Amy making out with a stranger before they both suddenly become unsatisfied and restless. Her final words in the film are “I’m OK. I’m not OK.” It is said repeatedly, a reflection of our own psyche during this troubling and dark period.