She Dies Tomorrow Explained and Explored

She Dies Tomorrow Explained and Explored - because we really should take a critical look at our lives and ask what it's all about.
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Covid is 100% shaping my film landscape expectations. Quarantine, isolation, fear, and anxiety have osmosed from my surroundings and have begun diffusing, subtly at first, but more aggressively now, into my film watch habits. Slow and dark films that might have been in the minority here a year or two ago are now my coveted preference for film watching. Give me something more cerebral and atmospheric and I might just jump at the chance. Which, is how we get to She Dies Tomorrow, a brilliant little film by Amy Seimetz – whom you all know her brilliant acting work in Upstream Color, or from the short film, “We’ll Find Something.” Amy has come up through the South by Southwest Mumblecore ecosystem and has gone on to direct and write some really fantastic stuff (e.g. Sun Don’t Shine, The Girlfriend Experience). Well, now, amid the chaos that is 2020, Seimetz has released her film to the world via NEON. So, let’s get to it shall we? She Dies Tomorrow Explained and Explored. Thanks, Lauren, for the suggestion – (she also brought us Starfish… and what have you brought us lately?) it’s a good one!!

Carruth & Seimetz Drama

Now, I have to say, I’ve been an outspoken Carruth fan for decades. But his behavior over the past couple weeks has been just bizarre beyond reason. I mean, I get some of it. When The Dead Center came out, we learned that his Modern Ocean movie had fallen through. So much so, that he recently released the script…which, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly complaining about at the time. But just a week or two, on Twitter, he also released a photo of a restraining order that Seimetz had taken out on him. And there was some conjecture out there that Carruth was attempting to hurt the release of She Dies Tomorrow. No one knows. But his random and bizarre tweets from his Upstream Color account have been nothing short of incomprehensible lately. So much so, that I had assumed that someone had hacked his account with the whole Verified hack job that had happened a few weeks ago. But no. That’s Shane. And he’s deep-ending big time. It’s extraordinarily clear that he’s done with movie making. And he’s also done with his 2016 engagement to Amy Seimetz as well. Meanwhile, it’s pretty abundantly clear that Amy wants nothing more to do with the guy. Which is really sad seeing as though they are both amazing talents. (I’d even go so far as to say the two of them in Upstream Color are my favorite couple in a movie ever. Even more so than Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass in The One I Love and even more so than Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in the Before Trilogy. I know huh? High praise.) Anyway, all of that is really beside the point – minus the fact that I would love Shane to take a deep breath, and just go make another $10k movie.

Watching Options for She Dies Tomorrow

As of Friday, August 7, She Dies Tomorrow became available to watch or buy via iTunesGoogle Play, YouTube, or wherever you prefer to purchase digital content. But is it worth it? Um. I loved it. But I’m also insane. So, I’m not exactly sure if this movie is for you. Here, watch this trailer – and then I’ll give you a few criteria by which you can decide if this movie is for you.

Did you like the films: Into the Forest, Starfish, We’ve Forgotten More Than We Ever Knew, The Wind. Maybe you are sensing a theme there? It’s a fairly eclectic list, and yet, they all carry a very specific tone. (Conversely, if you’ve already seen this film, and enjoyed it, I guess that list works for you as a movie recommendation list as well?? Something like that.) The biggest question I have for you is this, are you more interested in remaining in the dark, or being in the know? She Dies Tomorrow actually starts with the viewer in the dark, trudges ahead with us in the dark, and ends with us in the dark. And for me? I love that. Allow me to assemble the pieces, thank you very much. But I know that many of you, well – you aren’t too accepting of movies like that. So yeah, if you dig struggling for answers, and like a slow rolling, confusing sort of film…then give it a twirl. I, personally, cannot say enough good things about it. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed it. But for this one? You are going to either be HOT HOT, or ultra COLD. There isn’t a middle-meh ground.

She Dies Tomorrow Movie Walkthrough

One of the things I enjoyed the most about She Dies Tomorrow was the fact that we remain largely in the dark from beginning to end. The movie opens with one particular song getting played over, and over, and over again. And I’ve said for years here on this blog, whenever a movie director puts a book on a coffee table, pay attention to it. If a movie is on in the background, take note. And when a movie director chooses to play the same song FIVE TIMES? Chisel it in stone – THIS IS IMPORTANT. And I immediately recognized it from Mozart’s Requiem. I mean, I swear I don’t mean to talk down to you – but maybe a few of you don’t know that a requiem is written for the dead – specifically for their funeral. And from his requiem, it is his Lacrimosa. It’s important in that it was literally the last piece of music he worked on before he died. Heck, it was actually only partially completed even. Better yet, he wrote it on his deathbed.

The words of the Lacrimosa (or Mournful) talk all about how horrible it will be when the sinner is risen from the dead to be judged by God. Ultimately it is a prayer to God that he would spare them, that He would grant them rest. Is that relevant? For a movie entitled She Dies Tomorrow? Hahaha. Yeah…a little bit. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

We meet Amy (is this an autobiographical allusion Amy Seimetz? By the way, Amy is played by Kate Lyn Sheil – from the marvelously ethereal flick The Wanting Mare), and she is falling apart in front of our eyes. She is desperate to be with someone else? Maybe something big has recently happened? Amy is certain that she is going to die. Not just die, but that she is going to die tomorrow. Movies hold no captivation. Food, no interest. But, she focuses on her wood floor. Why? Well, she’s intrigued by once living things that serve a purpose later on. A tree lives on through the wood floor in her living room that she recently purchased. She moves from the wood in her floor to cremation urns and leather jackets. Maybe someone could make her…uh, into a leather jacket? (Silence of the Lambs anyone? “It puts the lotion in the basket, it putttts the lotttttionnnnnn in the basssskkketttt!”) But it is an idea of permanence, or lastingness that will carry her memory beyond her years on earth, that her mind is focusing on right now. After all, it is the day before her last day on earth.

Enter Jane (played by Jane Adams), a friend of Amy’s, who comes over to Amy’s house at her request. And after Amy tells Jane that she’s going to die tomorrow, Jane says this, and I quote, “You are going to die if you keep relapsing.” And Amy’s response? “That’s not what’s happening, but I am drinking, so technically, I am relapsing.” Now, unpack this a moment… because as of right now, all we have to go on points us to the fact that Amy is insane. OK, maybe not exactly insane, but she is definitely, without a doubt, depressed…and maybe manic/depressive? Now though, for the first time, we learn that Amy has a drinking problem? Hrmmm.

She Dies Tomorrow Explained and Explored

Jump shift in time – we see Amy, and another fellow named Craig (played by Kentucker Audley, (who also was in Amy Seimetz’s first film with Kate Lyn Sheil, “Sun Don’t Shine”) getting to know each other. (Which, I have to say, I have not yet seen, but definitely will be seeing almost immediately – the almost modifier being that life has this arbitrary tendency to get in the way of my real first love. Wait, did I just say that out loud?) They are obviously new to their relationship – Amy is showing Craig around her place. The two of them share an extraordinarily vulnerable moment where they share a few of their regrets to each other. And Amy, in an effort that I can only imagine was an attempt to out regret Craig, tells him that she had an abortion once. (Dollars to donuts, this is yet another autobiographical moment from Seimetz’s life…maybe even her life with Shane Carruth? Yes, I’m probably wrong, but I’d still bet I was right even though it is literally none of my business…but this movie is beginning to sound more and more like Amy’s confessional, more than a proper film. Not that there is anything wrong with that – I’d argue that the personal glints of Amy’s own life that show through the rest of the film are the glittery and magical moments that make the entire enterprise worthwhile. But maybe that’s just me?) BACK ON TARGET!! Gah. I have the hardest times keeping with the topic on hand.

Now, flip back to Jane. (Which, was surprising to me, to be honest – because I assumed it was about the She in the sentence, She Dies Tomorrow.) Jane has told her brother Jason (played by Chris Messina – whom you definitely don’t know from Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. Which is based on David Foster Wallace’s novel – and I will always go out of my way to mention DFW one more time if only just to keep him alive a little while longer.) to stay home and not go to her sister-in-law’s Susan’s birthday (played by Katie Aselton). Jane turns out to be an artist who photographs microbials, and transforms them into art that she at least horks her work onto her brother and sister-in-law, if no one else. And while photographing another mote of a subject, she begins seeing flashes of red and blue lights, similar to the lights that Amy occasionally sees. Huh. She too goes glassy eyed, and adrift. She too begins thinking similarly to her friend. What is going on here? Oh, and did I mention? She also begins playing the Lacrymosa as well? Yeah. “Huh” is right.

She Dies Tomorrow Half Time Break

By this point in the film, we are beginning to see that we are dealing with a rapidly transferable case of depression and anxiety. OR, maybe it is a viral infection that will kill the subject in 48 hours, but one that also informs them of their imminent death? Those are really our only two options here. An infectious depression. Or, a real malignancy that is extraordinarily fast acting (and host communicative?? That’s the really weird bit.)? I’m unclear. Oh, I did also jot another option in my notes about half through the film… “ALIEN INVASION?” Again, when I came to this film, I had zero in the way of preconceived ideas or notions of what kind of ride we were about to go on. And man, my mind was open to really anything.

She Dies Tomorrow Explained and Explored - because we really should take a critical look at our lives and ask what it's all about.

Second Half of She Dies Tomorrow

I really have to hit the gas on this breakdown. I’m already out at 2,000 words and I’m only half way done? Good lord man. Anyway, Amy goes missing, Jane can’t find her. And Jane decides she needs to be with other people, so she goes to her sister-in-law’s birthday party…where they talk about a manner of inanities, like how horny dolphins are, etc., etc. And voila, this contagion, it spreads to the four people at the party. All four of them succumb to it, and all four of them are hammered by it in one way or another.

Flip back to Amy and Craig as they continue to get to know each other. Well, when the pizza arrives, he heads out to the door to get it and doesn’t come back for a while. Huh. Weird. And when he does return, he too has been tagged by the alien-viral-depression (AVD should be its acronym from here on out). So Amy isn’t patient-zero. She in fact got it from Craig, who in turn got it from the pizza delivery guy. (Now, in this age of Covid-19, I am beginning to think that this movie might just be the movie of the year, not Host.) And within a day, Craig is dead. But we only know that because Amy goes back to verify she had really witnessed his bloody death. (HOW DID HE DIE? WAS IT SELF INFLICTED? DID THE ALIEN SPORE EXPLODE FROM HIS CHEST?!?!? We have no idea.) But we get a bit of a clue when Jane shows up at a random house, with two women who also have it, and she carrying both a large steak knife and a stab wound in her side. Could it be that Craig and Jane both hurt themselves through their overwhelming sense of depression and an imminent end?

Can we cut back to Jason and Susan for a moment? You know, Jane’s brother and her sister-in-law? Yeah, well, whatever Jane infected them with, she infected them with it real, real bad. Because in the night, the two of them go to their sleeping daughter…and kill her. Wait, what? How do you know that? Did you catch the line, “It’s better for it to happen in her sleep.” and then later, “Do you feel different after what we did?” They murdered their daughter they were so overcome. “But it doesn’t matter any more, right?” Wow.

The movie ends with Amy heading to a tanner, and they talk about his ability to create a jacket out of an animal’s skin. But the animal still need to be warm. And it’s a long process. But yeah, he can do it. (We know though that this tanner doesn’t have a long time to create a jacket out of Amy… he too has inevitably caught this AVD, and won’t be around to fully complete Amy’s project even if she could tell him what she really wanted him to do. So she heads out into the countryside… (in a spot that looks a lot like Apple Valley or Death Valley… not too far from where I grew up. I should tell you a story about me as a kid, blowing out my own car’s back window with a bb-gun out in a place like that… but I’m already way way long on this post.) sits, and just comes unglued about her coming inevitable death. And we end with Amy saying “I’m not okay, I’m not okay, I’m not okay. It’s okay, okay, okay… I’m not okay.”

What I Adored About This Movie

Amy Seimetz has crafted a little miracle of a movie. It’s a film about real life, and only dialed up some aspects of it to eleven, while leaving everything else the same. We are all being chased by death, and the fact that we have avoided this particular truth so perfectly, and so successfully, is what makes this movie so effective. I mean, think about it. I’d guess there will probably several hundred thousand people read this post in the next year. And of those, let’s say, 300,000 people, we know that the US mortality rate is somewhere around 1,200 per 100,000 people. (Totally depends on the year you were born, 1930’s would be 1800. 2000’s would be 800 or so.) Which – and yes, this is horribly crude, back of napkin kind of math – means that somewhere around 3,000 of you reading this article this year will die. (Sure, you guys aren’t average, you are wealthier, you probably skew younger… yadda yadda, but you get my point.)

Throughout this film, everyone was looking for a place to run and hide from the end. From death. Some were looking for close space to avoid the inevitable. Many wished they had built some reserve bunker to get away from the impending end…that they had thought ahead. But that isn’t any different for you and me right now. None. You might not survive your commute tomorrow. Heck, you might die staring at this very screen after getting clobbered by a crashing 747, or asteroid. (The movie Remainder anyone?)

But when the movie ends with Amy sitting in the desert, at night, having a panic attack, it tells me that this actually wasn’t an alien invasion. Nope. It wasn’t that. It also tells me that it wasn’t an actual viral outbreak. Nope, not that either. Rather, it probably was a metaphor sharing the feeling, the concept, of what a panic/anxiety attack really feels like. And even Amy Seimetz has gone on record to talk about how her new film is focused on those that have intense anxiety issues. Amy told Hollywood Reporter that, “I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and in lots of therapy, and I was trying to drill down into what and why. And essentially, when you have anxiety, your body or your brain is like, ‘I need to solve this right now.’ And then I asked, ‘Why do I need to solve this right now?’ And I realized: because I’m going to die at some point. So, I wanted to make something that was dealing with what my current situation was and not wait for it to be developed. I wanted to make something independent and go back to my roots as an independent filmmaker.” But, I would argue, while this is a great discussion of those who have depression, or intense anxiety attacks, it should be where all of us are each and every day. Why? Because we should keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that we shouldn’t waste our day today. We should live life as if it is our last all the time. In perpetuity. No?

I generally don’t succumb to panic attacks… and yet, I should be overwhelmed by the fact that I literally could die today… and what am I doing about it? Right now? Personally, I am on the record as having a very deep Christian faith background that grounds me and focuses me in a direction. But maybe you aren’t moored to anything like that. Or anything that finds a larger purpose in the chaos of everything that is swirling around us. Heck, I’m not trying to shove Christianity at you – I’m just saying, what really really matters to you? What is it that makes the world make sense for you? Otherwise, you become these people. Murdering your daughter in her sleep…because, hell, that is better than the alternative.

Edited by: CY