In Amy Seimetz’s second film, She Dies Tomorrow, dread is contagious. Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) believes – as the title implies – that she will die tomorrow. As most of us would with this type of bombshell, Amy doesn’t know what to do with herself. She drinks, listens to Mozart on a loop, shops for her own urn online, and of course, drinks some more. At first, it might seem like Amy’s fear is much ado about nothing, until her friend Jane (Jane Adams) comes to check up on her. Soon after, Jane comes away with the feeling that tomorrow, she will also die. When she visits a birthday party, she tells everyone about her newfound realization, at first met with laughs, but then taken grimly serious, as this harbinger of doom moves on to them as well.
Seimetz has crafted almost a contagion film that spreads through knowledge, but she doesn’t treat it like that. For those looking for answers, rationale or any type of tight narrative will finish She Dies Tomorrow unfulfilled. What makes Seimetz’s story so captivating is the way these people react once they realize they have only a few hours left. At first, it’s disbelief, but then after a flash of neon colors and indiscernible voices from the past, each of these people accepts their reality, quietly figuring out how to spend their last day on Earth. Maybe they spend their final moments driving a dune-buggy, or doing something they’ve been putting off for years, or even seeking vengeance as a way to stop this untimely end. It’s not giving answers to her audience that Seimetz is interested in, it’s what happens to her characters when they’re given the answer to the ultimate question.
At first, it’s as if Seimetz wants her audience to squirm a bit, trying to make them grasp what exactly is going on. Through jarring editing choices and dark, unsettling cinematography by Jay Keitel, Seimetz is putting us through the uncertainty that Sheil’s Amy must be going through. Why is this occurring? What exactly is happening? What should be done with this remaining time? That is until things start to get some semblance of balance and composure, as we accept that yes, tomorrow will be the final day for Amy, and that’s all there is to it.
And yet, Seimetz always lets us question whether or not this profound truth is true or false. Yes, this wave of anxiety is surely passing from one person to another, but there’s no guarantee that this will end the way the title implies, or if this is just fear about an indefinite future that we’ve all felt at some time or another, where we fear something that we are convinced will happen, yet never does. It’s because of this sense of unreliability and precariousness towards the future that does make this feel extremely timely. We’ve all recently been through several months of not knowing what fresh hell could come tomorrow,and that fear of the future certainly resonates in this film.
But even with all this reckoning with death, She Dies Tomorrow is morbidly funny, a mix of absurdism and the type of nervous chuckles usually reserved for much more overt horror films. For example, after discovering they too will be dying, couple Brian (Tunde Adebimpe) and Tilly (Jennifer Kim) spend much of their time discussing why their relationship was failing anyways. Throughout the film, Amy questions whether or not her body could be turned into a leather jacket once she passes. When Jane – not sure what to do about her demise – goes to her doctor (Josh Lucas), she explains what is going on with her in a scene in which the dynamics between these two changes over and over in a sequence so bizarre and yet completely understandable.
Seimetz’s second feature is unnerving, yet almost calming in a strange way: personal, but extremely relatable. No one – not the character or the audience watching the film – knows what is to pass next and there’s an oddly communal experience to that, as if we’re all trying to figure out the next step together. She Dies Tomorrow reminds of the fear that came out of Melancholia, the bizarre commentaries on society of Luis Buñuel’s films, and the unknown dangers oncoming in films like It Follows. But She Dies Tomorrow does all this in an empathetic, hilarious and undeniably weird story that never takes the easy route out, and even further cements Seimetz as a cinematic force to be reckoned with.