SHE DIES TOMORROW (2020, streaming on Amazon Prime) rolls out as an art house freakout over existential crisis. It’s intriguing, experiential, and interesting, though its slow, almost meditative pace and lack of a payoff may put off some viewers. This is one of those films that scores really high with critics but really low with audiences. Me, I liked it for what it offered.
The film certainly has an intriguing premise. A woman comes home despondent and displaying flip-flopping emotions. It turns out she believes she’s going to die tomorrow. When she tells a friend, her friend becomes similarly obsessed with the belief, which then spreads like a contagion through her entire network of friends and then the city at large.
The film was inspired by its maker’s experiences with anxiety attacks, and so some have interpreted the film to be about mental illness. That’s fair, though I don’t think you need to be mentally ill to regard death as scary and sudden awareness of your mortality as being a terrifying experience. In a way, the contagion is just that, simple death awareness, though its poignancy and threat comes from it happening regardless of your age and with utter certainty you have only one day to live. Anxiety attack, indeed.
What I enjoyed about the film is its raw honesty about human emotions regarding death. Some wrap up unfinished business like overdue breakups, others try to do something constructive, most become filled with regret over the things that previously obsessed them, though they can’t really imagine having done things all that differently; they just thought they had more time. For them, death robs any enjoyment they might feel in their final moments to the point of impotency and rejection of others; they’re in full animal fight or flight mode. This is not like one of those bittersweet apocalyptic films where the asteroid is coming so the bad guys go nuts, the good guys live life to the fullest, they talk about how they wished they’d climbed Mount Everest when they had the chance, and so on. This is real, stunned regret. The film didn’t need to be any more than that, it’s tough enough, and it qualified for me as psychological horror.
So I liked it for that alone. The acting is good thanks to a nice collection of solid actors, and there’s a certain art to the film, but yeah, you just have to connect with the concept and be willing to engage. On the downside, it’s real slow, very little happens, and we don’t quite get a payoff at the end, no definitive answers. So caveat emptor, YMMV, and all that. It’s certainly not for everybody or even most people. But if you’re in the mood for something deep and oddly affecting, you might check it out.