REVIEW: She Dies Tomorrow [2020]

Rating: 9 out of 10.
  • Rating: R | Runtime: 84 minutes
    Release Date: July 31st, 2020 (USA)
    Studio: NEON
    Director(s): Amy Seimetz
    Writer(s): Amy Seimetz

I want to be useful in death.


Do you feel that? The despair in and anxiety for a future as uncertain as it has ever been with civil unrest, genocide, climate disasters, global pandemics, and the ability to inject each of those horrors into our veins via technological progress that’s systematically hijacked by propagandists, charlatans, and malicious operators with no ambition other than sowing animosity and confusion? The futility in a present torn asunder by rich white men screaming at each other across a political divide while leveraging the lives of poor minorities so the corporations paying them exponentially larger sums than their salaries can continue pulling their strings? How about the growing realization that we’ve pushed ourselves to the brink of extinction for the promise of American Dreams wielded as a means of control?

Do you hope vocalizing it might somehow make a difference? That sharing your anguish with another might make things easier because then you wouldn’t be alone? Of course you do. You lament about the ills of the world to anyone who will listen. You type it out and share it on social media with a desire to throw it into the void and pretend it won’t simply bounce right back in your face one hundred times more powerful than before. This is what it’s like to be human in the age of a twenty-four hour news cycle that has transformed editorials into truth and fact into opinion courtesy of airtight echo chambers that themselves have rendered discourse and debate extinct. Dread binds us together. Fear rules us all.

And as Amy Seimetz‘s bold, self-financed thriller She Dies Tomorrow posits, death becomes our only comfort. Death becomes our great equalizer: a gift that will silence the pain that suffocates us from the inside out. It provides us the perspective we need to shed our insecurities and anger. It helps us to focus upon that which matters and those who will be left behind to blink and discover they too are marked for oblivion. That is the fate parents supply their children, after all. A ticking clock is started at birth to extend this cycle further and further without a chance for escape. Maybe you will use your time wisely and maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll unhappily prosper or maybe you’ll joyously fail. Perhaps you’ll even be prepared for the end.

Here’s the thing, though: you won’t know until you’re awakened to its inevitability. You will continue thinking your life has the potential for more even as you stumble through roadblocks because desire keeps us going. The nihilistic outlook festering within those around us therefore bleeds gradually. We see it online and on the news. We hear it from friends and family. And it compounds. It spreads. It becomes a disease rising from the depths of our souls until we can’t fight the reality that it’s always been steering the ship. Suddenly you’re a carrier passing it on to the next person and so on and so forth. You provide those you walk by on the street with the promise of clarity or paralysis. Oblivion is coming either way.

That’s the choice eating away at Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil). Should the undeniable fact that she’s dying tomorrow open her eyes or shut them? Is she okay? Is she ready? Is she going to become something beautiful like the hardwood floors beneath her feet or the leather jackets selling for three-hundred dollars on a high-end clothing website? Or will she become the dirt she squeezes in her hands that brings new life into everything that grows within it? These are the questions running through her mind. These are the uncertainties that confront her once she realizes meaning has been rendered moot. She wants to be with friends (Jane Adams‘ Jane) and lovers (Kentucker Audley‘s Craig). She wants to enjoy what’s left before coming to terms with what’s gone.

But the moment she brings anyone into that headspace is the moment they’re confronted with the same decision. What matters in Jane’s life? What matters to her brother (Chris Messina‘s Jason), sister-in-law (Katie Aselton‘s Susan), and niece (Madison Calderon‘s Madison)? How does the knowledge of their mortality push them forward? How does it send them back? Where do they go for comfort and where do they go to escape destiny? From one person to the next we see Brian (Tunde Adebimpe), Tilly (Jennifer Kim), and more fall prey to their respective existential crises and watch as they use that realization to rip Band-Aids off the things they’ve been too scared or proud to face. We witness them break free from illusion and grasp that it’s never too late.

So despite its genre underpinnings and uneasy visual style meant to disorient us as each domino falls down a rabbit hole with an immoveable bottom, She Dies Tomorrow does hold an inspiring sense of hope. We see it in the smiles of those awakened to the terror of their fate. We see it in those who honor the simple, glorious things they will miss rather than drown in the darkness of regret and horror that consumed them while sleepwalking through a life that only ever seemed to get worse. That’s not to say some won’t succumb to the prospect of what’s on the horizon and allow its known action to continue holding unknown details. Some of us are too far-gone to cope. Some will just never be ready.

To see Seimetz wash these actors’ faces in blue and red upon activating her characters, however, is to see the duality of life’s happiness and sorrow play out in shadows and light. Shock moves to acceptance and vice versa until they find someone to share the weight of this information and finally settle upon one above the other. Jason and Susan go to Madison. Jane exits her bubble to meet new friends. And Amy searches for herself. She recalls who she was before it happened. She’ll measure her worth and wonder if it was enough. And she’ll look past the capitalist construct of materialism and success to embrace nature and assume her place amidst its incalculable scope. While knowledge does hurts, that pain possesses the power to liberate.


photography:
courtesy of NEON

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