‘She Dies Tomorrow’: Amy Seimetz’s Psychological Thriller Taps Into Our Collective Fears
The mind is a powerful thing, and when Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), the protagonist of Amy Seimetz’s psychological thriller “She Dies Tomorrow,” becomes convinced that the next day will be her last, there’s no convincing her otherwise. The plot takes a turn when it becomes apparent that this bizarre malaise is contagious, as not long after Amy reveals her impending demise to her close friend Jane (Jane Adams) does the other women start experiencing the same strange symptoms herself.
Both Amy and Jane experience a gamut of emotions, and flashbacks reveal that Amy most likely caught whatever she has from Craig (Kentucker Audley), her loner boyfriend whom she had only recently started seeing. Their budding romance came to an abrupt end during what started off as an idyllic desert getaway, one from which Amy returns home solo and full of fear.
Sheil and Adams recently reunited via Zoom for an in-depth interview with Entertainment Voice. The pair, who are good friends in real life, having both previously acted in a film produced by Seimetz, “Silver Bullets,” as well as “Brigsby Bear,“ jumped at the chance to work together again. “Amy came to us with the idea for the movie, and, for me, it was a no-brainer, because I’m such a fan of Amy as a human being and an artist, so I knew whatever she was doing was something that I would love to be a part of,” recalled Sheil.
According to Adams, making a film isn’t really work if you’re doing it with your friends. “Amy called and said, ‘Kate’s over here.’ She had sent me some pages and was like, ‘Come over and shoot it. We’ll just shoot something and see what happens,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, heaven, great.’ It’s such a great excuse to hang out. …I think we all enjoy an invitation to do that more than if she had said to me, ‘Hey, we’re just sitting around having some chips and watching a movie.’”
The most striking scenes in “She Dies Tomorrow” are the ones in which there is little to no dialogue, when Amy and Jane are home alone and left to their own devices. While Jane focuses on her art, Amy wanders around her house and property wearing a fabulous dress, not only checking out urns on the internet and looking into the possible of turning herself into a leather jacket after death, but also lighting a fire in her backyard and spending time sprawled out on the floor struggling to come to terms with what happens next.
According to Sheil and Adams, Seimetz, an accomplished actor herself, gave them both plenty of room to explore during these scenes. Said Sheil, “Amy would explain what she wanted, and then, she really lets you go and has a really lovely and incisive and precise kind of quickly and gently course-correcting you if she’s looking for something else. But she really gives you space to figure it out on your own.”
Both Sheil and Adams show a remarkable range here, as Amy and Jane separately grapple with what’s happening. While Amy mostly limits her contact with others, save for a dune buggy buggy operator (Adam Wingard) and an old man who runs a tannery, Jane spreads what Adams refers to as a “mind virus” to multiple people, including her brother, Jason (Chris Messina), sister-in-law Susan (Katie Aselton), and an emergency room doctor (Josh Lucas).
“I feel like, also, some of my character’s emotional scenes are, something that we talked about, is that she’s trying to chase that cathartic moment, but she’s failing to get there, so there are some scenes where she is trying to cry, trying to have that release, but is too paralyzed by anxiety and fear to get there,” reasoned Sheil. Amy, an alcoholic, uses a copious amount of wine in her quest to get to where she thinks she needs to be mentally. She also plays Mozart’s “Requiem” on repeat, which further amplifies the mood.
“I just never really felt like breakdowns are that far away from me,” said Adams with a laugh when asked about those scenes in which Janes loses it. “It’s not a difficult place to go.”
Less is more here, as Seimetz has expertly created intrigue by not getting into the root cause of the affliction, which allows the focus to stay on the characters and the emotions. As for Amy, little is revealed to the viewer about her background, and Sheil prefers it that way.
“I always enjoy a movie that drops you into the action,” she revealed. “I’m not a huge fan of exposition, and I believe that Amy has gone on the record as saying that she isn’t either. I worked out my backstory on my own, but I knew that it was always Amy’s intention to sort of thrust you into the emotion of the movie.”
In the midst of all this chaos are brilliant moments of humor that serve to break up some of the tension, most memorably when Jane visits her patient brother and his self-absorbed wife during a dinner party. Seimetz tries to imagine how one’s priorities would shift if they knew they knew death was imminent, and perhaps the most relatable characters are Brian (Tunde Adebimpe) and Tilly (Jennifer Kim), Jason and Susan’s friends who are in a dead-end relationship.
The release of “She Dies Tomorrow” during a pandemic makes it especially timely and important, as it not only deals with a fast-spreading, deadly virus of sorts, but also with feelings of isolation. “It’s made me think Amy has extra-sensory perception,” admitted Adams. “This is the most prescient film I’ve ever been involved in.”
“I feel like I always kind of related to the character or the concept or feeling of isolation,” added Sheil. “Like Jane said, I don’t really know how Amy kind of nailed this collective feeling that we’re all [dealing with]… I hope that someone sees their own experience reflected in the movie and it makes them feel less crazy or less alone. I also hope that it’s cathartic in some ways. I hope they find humor in it, too.”
“I hope they can laugh,” said Adams when asked what she hopes viewers take away from the film. “I know, if I wasn’t in this movie with you, Kate, I would enjoy watching it right now, because I’m having trouble watching movies and shows that are about regular lives, because that seems so distant now. I get distracted wondering when that’s going to come back for us… What a relief to watch some version of what we’re all experiencing right now, that is somehow readily available to watch only because Amy had the idea to shoot a film about a woman who contracts a virus of the mind where she thinks she’s going to die tomorrow, way before Covid happened, which is just weird. That’s pretty unique.”
“She Dies Tomorrow” releases July 31 in drive-in theaters and Aug. 7 on VOD.