She Dies Tomorrow: A Mortal Disturbance
Don’t you hate those moments when you think about the fact that you are going to die one day? Well, dial that up to knowing you are going to die and that it’s tomorrow. Writer-director Amy Seimetz has coincidentally released a thriller for the current pandemic. She didn’t mean for it to be contemporaneous with the coronavirus; she wrote the script and directed the movie before 2020. She Dies Tomorrow was another entry in the canceled South by Southwest film festival. Now, it’s available to rent digitally and though the disease in the film is much different than the coronavirus- more like a mental virus than a physical one- it’s just as contagious and if there’s one defining allegory to take away from it, it’s that these people need to quarantine.
The opening shot is an extreme close-up of Amy’s eye. She’s been stricken with something. What it is we don’t know. But one thing is clear (partly thanks to the ingenious cut to the film title working as exposition), that eye will not be seeing much longer because Amy is going to die tomorrow. So what does a recovering alcoholic do when faced with this dooming knowledge? Relapse. She gets twisted, she calls her friend who is beyond confused by Amy’s daze (“Go see a movie,” she says. “Movies are an hour and half,” Amy says. As much as I love movies, I’m with Amy here. Definitely wouldn’t go see a movie in my final hours. Even though that is probably what will happen to me. Also, more and more movies really are an hour and half lately and not the generally prescribed two hours, especially low-budget movies like this. Are filmmakers doing this on purpose because of our declining attention spans?), she shops for urns to carry her ashes, leather jackets, and then drinks wine while using a leaf blower on nothing particular in her backyard. The film has a lot of witty moments. Her friend Jane arrives at her house, perturbed. “Hi Jane. I was thinking I could be made into a leather jacket.” Again, the dark humor is a highlight of the film.
The ominous utility of Mozart’s Requiem: Lacrimosa is common, but here it really strikes a disturbing chord, especially as the characters listen to it on repeat. There’s some quick close-ups of cells and molecules and the palpable anxiety that is 2020 overwhelms just as much as the notion that she’s going to die overwhelms Amy. Then Jane gets it and we find out it’s contagious and all of a sudden the freaky realism is making itself at home. There is enough to distract from our real world, however, like the pretty neon lights that shimmer and bounce when someone contracts the knowledge of their 24-hour fate. Then more people get the mysterious virus thanks to negligent wandering by the first victims.
One of the best parts about the movie is the candor and forthrightness that comes out when these people realize nothing matters anymore. Like one couple talking about their relationship and its expiration, their regret for staying in it longer than they should have. There’s a married couple and their poor daughter, the wife wasted so much time taking interest in pointless things. The husband takes a sip of his last cup of coffee and then stares at it mournfully. Then there’s two girl roommates who watch Jane, after aimlessly walking into their house, swim in their pool as they talk about the trees and having one last period. These are nice touches along with the clever humor.
She Dies Tomorrow is very much a film for this epoch. It’s a strange one, but somehow comforting. It runs at a leisurely pace but it’s an engrossing 85 minutes. It’s almost a cathartic experience to see something so relatable to the time we’re living in. It’s understandable to avoid this one but if one gets tired of the happy stories we’re striving for these days, She Dies Tomorrow is the relevant go-to. It’s simply just a well-made thriller as well. Coronavirus or not, we’re all still going to die someday so why not check out a film about dying and take heed of the fact that we don’t know exactly when we’ll die, unlike the poor characters. Though it’s entertaining escapism from our own real, virulent state to watch them slowly and metaphorically dig their own graves.