Whatever you think the “monster” might be in it, Amy Seimetz’s low-fi cosmic horror will quietly crawl up your spine
It seems strange to start a movie review with a content warning, but it must be said: don’t watch Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow if you’re in a fragile state of mind. On the other hand, like Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day, a movie that depicts mental illness in such a unique and moving way shouldn’t be missed. Just understand that it’s not an easy, enjoyable watch–elliptical and dream-like, it asks far more questions than it answers. One can even come away from it wondering if it really is supposed to be a metaphor for mental illness, or if it’s simply a question of how the viewer chooses to interpret it.
As someone who struggles with depression, it’s impossible for me to not watch She Dies Tomorrow through that lens. There’s something all too painfully familiar about the sense of doom that overtakes the characters like a fast-moving virus, and how it leaves them shambling around with the dazed expression of someone just emerging from a plane crash. I do not profess to know anything about Seimetz’s off-screen life, but this feels personal and painful, empathetic without resorting to cliches and platitudes. It’s hard to fake that kind of insight.
The film opens with Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) muddling through what we later learn is a recent breakup. Even in flashbacks of happier times, though, she looks delicate, wary, like someone who’s used to disappointment. Seemingly from out of nowhere, she’s struck with a terrible, unshakeable thought: she’s going to die the next day. She doesn’t know when, or how, just that it will happen, and she’s powerless to stop it.
Though her friend, Jane (Jane Adams), tries to convince her that it’s all in her head and she has nothing to worry about, soon Jane is struck with the same thought. Jane, in turn, passes it on to her brother (Chris Messina) and sister-in-law (Katie Aselton), and their friends (Tunde Adebimpe and Jennifer Kim). Not unlike It Follows, which with She Dies Tomorrow would make a bleak and harrowing double feature, this monster is relentless in its destruction.
I do not profess to know anything about Seimetz’s off-screen life, but this feels personal and painful, empathetic without resorting to cliches and platitudes.
Everyone spends their presumed last night on Earth taking dune buggy rides, making out with strangers, planning their own funerals, burning mementos, practicing brutal honesty, and, in one instance, seeking violent revenge for passing on…whatever this thing is. There’s nothing cathartic about it, though–it’s all just checking things off a list, a way to hold the inevitable at bay for a little while longer. They should be able to find comfort with each other, but instead, they’re more isolated and lonely than ever before.
It’s impossible to categorize She Dies Tomorrow. It’s somewhat of a horror movie, in the loosest sense of the phrase. There’s no action, not much conflict, and no real conclusion. Whether something really is coming for these characters, or if its a shared delusion is never clarified, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s about terror and self-centeredness in the face of mortality. It’s about how sadness makes us unreasonable, as illustrated in a comically morbid scene in which Amy asks Jane to see to it that she’s made into a leather jacket after she’s gone. It makes us disoriented, as when Jane shows up at a family birthday party unkempt and in her pajamas. The common thread is that no one takes them seriously until they start experiencing it themselves…not unlike what happens in a horror movie.
What Seimetz has created is something that feels both strange and deeply recognizable. Whether you apply current events to She Dies Tomorrow, or your own, very personal experience, the end of the world looks the same: a lot like the world as it always is, but quieter, a little stiller. The only sound you hear is the ambient noise of what could be your own blood rushing through your veins, the earth continuing to turn under your feet, or nothing at all. Few movies have as artfully, tenderly portrayed the weight of our own existence as this does here, when Amy tearfully whispers to herself “It’s okay, it’s okay. I’m not okay.”
She Dies Tomorrow is available on VOD starting August 7th