She Dies Tomorrow (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Before tomorrow comes

“She Dies Tomorrow” is very convincing and thought-provoking in handling its rather preposterous story premise. While it takes some time in building up its story and characters during its first part, it eventually comes to us as quite an engaging and fascinating rumination on those familiar matters of life and death, and I admire how deftly and touchingly it pulls off that without any fatal misstep to disrupt its exquisite mood and narrative. 

At first, we are introduced to a young woman name Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), and the movie shows us how things have been quite depressing for her. Although she has just moved to a new house while looking forward to having a fresh new start for her life, she is apparently moody and depressed, and, not so surprisingly, she later turns out to be on the verge of falling back to her alcoholism.

Anyway, the mood seems to be brightened up a little when Amy’s artist friend Jane (Jane Adams) drops by Amy’s house for checking her out before going to her sister-in-law’s birthday party, but then Amy tells something odd and disturbing to Jane. For some unknown reason, Amy firmly believes that she is going to die tomorrow, and Amy understandably tries to be reasonable with her friend for a while, but, no matter how much her friend tries, Amy remains quite sure that the end is approaching right now.

Quite flabbergasted by her friend’s seemingly insane conviction on the impending end, Jane returns to her home and then works on her latest project for a while, and then there comes a mysterious happening upon her. After that, she also comes to believe that the end will occur on the very next day, and she phlegmatically talks about that when she subsequently attends her sister-in-law’s birthday party.

Jane’s brother Jason (Chris Messina) and his wife Susan (Katie Aselton) are naturally caught off guard by what Amy tells them and their two party guests, but, what do you know, these four people also soon find themselves becoming quite sure that the end is near. Once they have an experience to similar to Jane’s, Jason and Susan are overwhelmed by the feeling and knowledge of the impending end, though, like Amy and Jane, they do not exactly know how the end will come to not only them but also their adolescent daughter, who also becomes emotionally overwhelmed as much as them. 

And we gradually come to gather how contagious this inexplicable happening of feeling and knowing the approaching end really is. Later in the story, Jane goes to a hospital for getting more hint on how the hell she will die tomorrow, and a doctor assigned to her becomes quite devastated once he gets ‘infected’ while talking with her. In case of Amy, she decides to be a little more active than before, so she comes to try driving a dune buggy, but then the mood becomes depressing as before when she comes to transmit her feeling and knowing of the impending end to one supporting character in the story.

While observing more of what is happening to the characters in the film, you will naturally come to wonder whether it is simply a sort of mass hysteria or actually a real omen for what will inevitably happen in the end, but the director/co-producer/writer Amy Seimetz, who previously made a feature film debut with “Sun Don’t Shine” (2012), wisely avoids any cheap explanation, and it instead delves deeper into its baffling story promise. Under Seimetz’s skillful direction, whatever is felt by the characters in the film is constantly palpable to us, and the dry but peculiar mood surrounding them is further accentuated by the score by Mondo Boys. As a result, even while having more doubts on their mysterious circumstance, we come to accept their serious attitude to that, and their human reactions are sometimes unexpectedly touching to us.   

One of my favorite moments in the film comes from two supporting characters in the story, who, after getting ‘infected’, come to face how superficial their relationship has been during last several months. Ironically, their shared belief in the impending end makes them more honest and caring to each other, and it is poignant to watch them peacefully spending some time together as the day they have been dreading is beginning.

After subtly building up its emotional narrative, the movie eventually reaches to its arrival point as expected, but then it finds an unexpected way to sidestep our expectation. I will let you see that for yourself, but I can tell you instead on how much that depends on the convincing acting of Kate Lyn Sheil, who holds the center well while also supported well by several other cast members including Jane Adams, Chris Messina, Katie Aselton, Jennifer Kim, Josh Lucas, and Tunde Adebimpe, whom I still fondly remember for his warm and decent supporting performance in late Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married” (2008).

Overall, “She Dies Tomorrow” is a solid genre piece which accomplishes its modest goals fairly well, and I enjoyed Seimetz’ thoughtful handling of mood, story, and performance. As watching the key scenes in the film, I found myself musing a lot on my life and its inevitable end, and that led me to some thoughts on how I should live the remaining years of my life. So far, it looks like I will not die tomorrow at least, and I am grateful that there is still more time for me to watch more movies and write more reviews.

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