A woman jolts awake and gasps for air in a nondescript living room. She can’t explain why, but she’s certain of one thing: she only has one more day to live. So she tells her friend, Jane, and something horrifying happens: Jane also becomes certain the next day will be her last. This strange conviction, it turns out, is contagious. And it’ll infect many more before tomorrow actually comes.
Written and directed by Amy Seimetz, She Dies Tomorrow is a new film with a title and a premise that suggests something propulsive — a thriller, perhaps, or a nightmarish horror film. Instead, it is contemplative, a psychodrama that introduces a simple unsettling idea to each of its characters and lets us watch as they become unmoored. It doesn’t give definite answers to anything, but it is absolutely clear about one thing: everyone who says they are going to die tomorrow absolutely believes it.
She Dies Tomorrow is a house of mirrors, a film much more interested in the reflections it offers you than in conjuring anything overly specific for you to ruminate. Its characters all process the revelation at the heart of the film in strikingly mundane ways. Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), the protagonist, mills about aimlessly, seemingly overwhelmed by the number of ways she could spend her last day, ends up whiling away the hours with morbidly mundane stuff like looking up urns or wondering if her skin could be made into a leather jacket.
Others, like Brian (Tunde Adebimpe) and Tilly (Jennifer Kim) immediately lose interest in the charade they’ve each been maintaining for the other’s benefit, agreeing that they were never going to work out as a couple and that they were going to leave each other as soon as it didn’t seem callous. She Dies Tomorrow dances from existential dread to compressed breakup story to withering comedy from scene to scene. The film takes the gravity of its premise and juxtaposes it with mundanity, and in doing so its characters all feel so silly and self-absorbed. Then the idea infects me, and I feel silly and self-absorbed.
Incomprehensibly big, destabilizing events have a way of warping everything around them, forcing everything into a new context. She Dies Tomorrow arriving in the midst of a global pandemic that, among other things, inspires a general feeling of mundane helplessness gives the film a recursive quality: we are all surrounded by our own doom and the temptation of that doom is narcissism, to spend all of our time stunned by how our world is being rearranged.
She Dies Tomorrow isn’t interested in resolution, but if you lean forward, you can find interrogation. As each character is infected with the idea that their end is coming, they stare at the camera as barely discernible voices fade in and red and blue lights change the contours of their face. We don’t know what’s going through their minds, but we can imagine: how are you living right now, and how is it different from the ways you’ve always lived? Is there a good reason for that? Who put the idea in your head that it has to be this way?
“Do you want to make out?” a man (Adam Wingard) asks Amy as they get high together and she tries to figure out what to do next on her last day. She consents, but they eventually call it off before anything really happens. It doesn’t feel right. Nothing feels right. And whether there’s an answer to the question of how right Amy or her friends are about their fate, nothing ever will again.