Amy is going to die tomorrow. She’s sure of it.
She doesn’t appear to be sick and she’s not planning on committing suicide — but Amy is absolutely, positively, 100% sure she is doing to die tomorrow.
And whatever it is that’s afflicting Amy appears to be contagious.
Director Amy Seimetz’s haunting and striking and unnerving “She Dies Tomorrow” was conceived and filmed long before COVID-19, but it’s a particularly disturbing and resonant piece of work in these Quarantine Times. As one character after another becomes infected with a mysterious and powerful … something that convinces them they’re going to die tomorrow, polite societal conventions give way to an almost surreal kind of forthrightness; why mince words or suppress your impulses when you’re convinced you’re going to be gone tomorrow anyway?
Kate Lyn Sheil delivers a nomination-worthy performance as Amy, a recovering alcoholic who has recently endured a romantic breakup and is spiraling into despair. Inebriated and desperate, Amy calls her best friend Jane (Jane Adams) and tells her she’s going to die tomorrow, but Jane is initially more concerned with babbling on about how it’s her brother’s birthday and she’s supposed to bring salad to the party and why should she even bother to go because her brother’s wife hates her? Eventually, though, Jane comes calling on her friend. Later that night, Jane shows up at the home of her brother Jason (Chris Messina) and his wife Susan (Katie Aselton), wearing her pajamas and looking dazed — and telling everyone she’s going to die tomorrow.
Katie Aselton is a force as Susan, who only wants to talk about the mating habits of dolphins and drink wine and enjoy her birthday cake. Why does Jane always have to make everything about her? What’s with this narcissistic, self-pitying B.S. about her dying tomorrow?
Ah, but then Jason is mesmerized by a burst of pulsating lights emanating from an unknown source, and he, too, becomes convinced he’s going to die tomorrow, and a short while later Susan has been “infected” as well.
And so it goes, with various characters falling prey to the same disease, or delusion, or hallucination, or whatever it is. “She Dies Tomorrow” is an exercise in contagious paranoia, with writer-director Seimetz wisely opting not to explain too much yet managing to provide enough information and plot development to somehow make all of this seem plausible. We don’t know what’s gotten into these people, but we know THEY believe it’s real, and their behavior once they’re convinced they have at most 24 hours to live ranges from the bizarre to the brutally honest to zombie-like to strange and even funny.
For Amy et al., there’s something simultaneously horrifying and liberating about knowing your life is about to end. “She Dies Tomorrow” is a well-crafted, beautifully acted, minimalist gem for our times.