“I’m Ok. I’m Not Ok. It Just Is” (Is it?) You try to reassure yourself, but you can’t. Then you try to accept it. Whatever it is. In Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow, that it is death. But, why tomorrow? Why is Amy’s (the character’s) conviction so unshakable? And contagious? Sure, we have the pandemic to contend with. That invisible predator that haunts us all, unless we’re in the business of denying it. But if we look more closely at the players in this psychological horror film – we’d have to say the real culprit is loss.
The question is: what is that loss? And why such an awful sense of doom?
Amy tries to drink it away. But, Jane (Jane Adams)? She’s (to use a non-clinical term), a complete basket-case. Can’t deal with life, as it is. Hides in her laboratory, making art of specimens. Can’t stand the distress Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is in; “won’t sit and watch” her relapse. Sure, relapsing is awful. Alcoholism is. But what is really going on?
No one drinks to excess unless they can’t cope with something that feels like too much. Now, Amy’s lost her new boyfriend, Craig (Kentucker Audley). He either went crazy on mushrooms, or some mysterious fear of November 25th. Saying, after he opens the door for a pizza delivery: “It’s over. There’s no tomorrow.” For what? Their relationship?
His mood changed, before he opened the door, playing Go Fish. Amy sensed it: “Is everything ok?” He’d told her, in a flashback about regrets, lying tenderly together on the bed, that he hadn’t done something because of a girlfriend he wasn’t over. And, she was struggling with the “termination” of a pregnancy. Now, she’s been cut short; by him.
Did someone leave her before? When she was just a child?
Not Ok With Loss (Or Rejection)
Loss can feel like the end of the world. It really can. And, Amy is not ok. That’s clear, through the entire 86 minutes of this agonizing film. But what exactly is not ok?
She Dies Tomorrow opens with an eye, big and bold, filling the screen. A woman’s eye, with tears welling into it; fought; not allowed; barely squeezing out. No one drinks as Amy does, relapsing into a prolonged binge unless there’s a long history of sadness. Buried and drowned. But, not dead. Resurrected in one enormous rejection.
You wish that sadness was dead. Because it seems certain it will kill you. The hope of love – Gone. Now, each second is an eternity. You know you won’t survive it. All the feelings. You can’t. Not another day. Sadness will go on forever.
That’s what you believe. We watch Amy. Flashing back to how it ended: “I didn’t know you very well. I only knew you a short while. But it was really nice. The period of time we spent together was a really nice time.” Was it real? Yes. But now he’s gone.
Amy remembers: Craig throwing things, out of control, yelling: “It’s over, over. I’m not crazy. I’m not fucking crazy, please understand. We had a nice time, but it’s over now. There’s no tomorrow. I’m not fucking crazy.” Amy, in a dream state, wakes up with a start. Panicked, in her new reality. It’s over. There’s no way back. No way out of loss.
How do you deal with that? You can use a variety of methods to try to be ok, methods she and the other characters use (when the contagion of dying tomorrow hits them). Or say “it just is.” But, can anyone accept reality, when you don’t know what that reality is?
“I’m Ok. I’m Not Ok. It Just Is”
You see, Amy has no idea what happened. Why it all ended so suddenly. Things were going along so well. There they were, away, with a schedule; plans. Sure, he liked guns. She didn’t. And, she didn’t know him well. What he could or couldn’t do. Or, why his past relationships ended. Why he likes isolation (she doesn’t) and has no friends.
Now Craig’s dead. His body lying on the floor, as the film ends. Blood splattered. Amy sitting there, to see if it was real. Did he kill himself? We don’t know that, either.
But what isn’t a mystery – is that being rejected, losing hope, can cause irrational actions and very mixed up thoughts. Like a conviction that there’s no tomorrow. Depression can do that. Can feel like the end of the whole world. What, then, can make you ok?
You can say you’re ok. Amy tries. But deep down and quickly, knows that she’s not ok. Back and forth, trying to fight off the despair. “I’m ok. I’m not ok.” What does it morph into when you really feel there’s no way out, as Amy does? Our other characters, do?
Maybe you try to say to yourself, “it just is.” It just is. You try to accept “reality.” Like the surprisingly parallel experience of this film and COVID-19, “It just is.” Except, we might be afraid of dying, in the sameness of one day after another. But we aren’t.
Amy believes she is. Absolutely convinced. And, this infects the others, as vulnerable to hopelessness as she is it seems. What makes someone so wide open to terror? Terror that life is over. Or, for some, that you just can’t bear to live another day with the pain.
Loss can do that to you. It can.
With No One & Nothing to Hold on To
Especially if you’re alone in the world. Amy seems that way. So does Jane. They sort of have each other. Friends. But with Jane keeping her distance. And, Amy can’t easily let anyone in. Probably why Craig’s sudden withdrawal, ending it, was so devastating.
She starts to cry. Stops herself. Calls Jane. She needs someone. “Can you come over?” Jane can’t: “Don’t do anything you’ll regret. Watch a movie.” “No, it’s an hour and ½.”
Time doesn’t pass when “the world is ending.” When time is emptied of the one you need. There is nothing to hold you. And, you feel like you will fall forever. There, alone.
Amy floats in a daze of distress and alcohol. Mozart’s Requiem, on the phonograph. Amy playing it over and over, doesn’t bode well for her state of mind. Dying? It’s really the terror of being alone. Terror can make anyone a zombie. So, does too much booze.
The floor. That’s a connection. Something under you. When you’re falling apart. Or, the walls, you can touch them, dancing; when there isn’t anyone to touch you back. The phone? No, don’t reach out. You already asked. Your friend said no. You can start the music over. Over and over. Remembering. A rhythm that doesn’t end. Nor does death.
An Ending. And, living after it – that’s the problem. The clock is upside down; just like your life. You can imagine being made into a leather jacket. Into a thick skin, a tougher skin; something you don’t have now. No arms to hold you. That’s why you have to drink.
What Makes A Conviction Unshakable?
Amy’s convinced. Tomorrow is the end. Freaked out by Amy’s apparent insanity, Jane leaves but tells her to call her tomorrow: “No. There is no tomorrow for me. Goodbye.” Amy hears a moaning. A child? A man? A voice inside trying to cry out. She mouths something into the screen. As if she’s trying to call for help, but can’t let herself.
She believes she’s all alone. That’s the problem. And, probably always has been. Knows that no one will hear her cries. There’s something about Craig’s sudden abandonment; her reaction to it; that must replicate something from the past. Something traumatic.
Unexpectedly, Jane’s now infected. How do we understand that? Well, she’s pretty much alone too. Somewhat of a recluse. Except for her brother and Amy. Now Amy is sloshed and making no sense at all. Amy, who scares her – and she’s leaving Jane alone.
Jane, equally convinced that she’ll die tomorrow too. Why? Why does a belief get inside your head and create unshakable convictions? Not just feelings or fears. But, certainties. Jane says it. Amy put the idea into her mind. Now she’s paranoid. Yet, what is paranoia?
It’s catastrophic anxiety that turns feelings or worries into beliefs. That’s what creates conviction. It’s not: I’m so depressed about Craig leaving me (or dying) that I feel like my whole world is ending. No, it becomes real. You just know. Irrational as that may be.
“Just like I know if I drop this plate, it’ll break,” Jane says. She drops it. As it shatters, she hears the voice of her mother. In her head. Not a loving voice. Nothing is safe.
The Voice of Past Catastrophe
A childhood full of trauma or accusations; of no one there to help or understand, can easily become the anxiety-ridden voice of catastrophe around every corner. For Amy, maybe that if she lets her guard down, stops drinking, hopes for love; she will be left.
And, Jane, with a yelling mother’s voice in her head? Summer in New York? Look up and you’ll see air conditioners ready to fall on your head. One is going to. Better watch out. Or, her break-in and rape fantasy, one she’s sure will happen any time, any night:
“Someone is going to break in and steal everything. Not just that. Rape you, but also taunt you mercilessly that you’re going to beg for your own life.”
Seal yourself off. Check the locks.
For all these people who “catch” the conviction that they will die tomorrow. There’s some old despair; some terrible feeling that’s at the root of it all; some feelings they’ve never been able to face. Jane desperately tries to call Amy; certain, in her delusional state that Amy is the only one that knows what’s going on. She pleads:
“Please, please don’t leave me alone with this.” Yes, everyone needs someone. If you don’t have that someone when you’re a little child; someone who answers your calls, that is trauma. And, that leads to terror. Fear of being left. No place for your feelings. Hence, alcoholism. Retreat into researches. Or, the belief that death is coming tomorrow.
Maybe even, that it’s better to go dead. Hurts less. The new message on Amy’s phone: “Hey, it’s Amy. I won’t be around tomorrow. Or any day after that … there’s no need to leave a message …” No one matters anymore.
Why Do the Others “Catch It?”
Brian (Tunde Adebimpe) and Tilly (Jennifer Kim) are a broken couple. Brian’s clearly depressed (look at his face), making him vulnerable to end-of-life fantasies. And Tilly, insecure and not feeling very lovable at all; convinced Brian doesn’t care. Because he didn’t come to her birthday party on the day his dad had a stroke. But she stays.
Because? Well, maybe she just needs someone too. The others? Jason (Chris Messina) and Susan (Katie Aselton)? The film doesn’t always make sense. But, suffice it to say, there’s some emptiness there. Something’s missing; something that is inside each of them; that they don’t know how to fill. So, they’re infected too …
Nothing means anything anymore. Why – is a mystery. Likely something long ago. We have to remember. Jason has the same mother as Jane. If you’ve had a traumatic past, creating a lot of anxiety; like the worry of a pandemic, where the enemy is invisible and uncertain – anyone can be infected, if you’re in a vulnerable state.
And, those other women? Talking of menstruation. Is that a pandemic of its own? Or an ending and also a new beginning. Because women who live together sync into a natural rhythm with each other. And, unlike dying tomorrow, it isn’t a shared delusion.
It’s an experience of a cycle – of death, but also the possibility of new life. Another chance next month. And, that is the key to a way out of despair. If you don’t self-destruct, falling into a conviction that catastrophe is all there is ahead. Like Jane seems to have done; bleeding from her abdomen; having stabbed herself at her core?
The End? Or A Way Out of Despair?
Amy? She goes back, to where it all happened, in her sequined black death dress: “I came back to see if you were real. If this was real. This is not real.” Can it be?
No, she doesn’t want to believe that his body is right there, lying on the floor. Blood on the wall: Not menstrual blood, a cycle. But, for her, the end. Of love. And, of hope:
“I didn’t know you very well. I only knew you for a short while. But it was a really nice time. The period of time we spent together was a really nice time.” Now, he’s gone.
The sun comes up the next day. The day she’s supposed to die. Lying outside; in this desolate place; dreaming of sacrificing her body for a leather jacket. Her skin; too raw and thin. She wakes up with a start from her nightmare, tears streaming down her face.
“I’m ok. I’m ready.” She lies down. Sits up. “I’m not ok. It’s ok.” She starts to hum, as if in an attempt to comfort herself. But there is no comforting the lonely one. With no one else’s arms. All you can think is, like the 1962 Skeeter Davis song, End of the World:
“Don’t they know it’s the end of the world? It ended when I lost your love.”
Yet, life doesn’t have to end. If you can turn to someone for help. If that someone is there; lends a hand and an ear; if your feelings of despair and grief have a home. There can be many more tomorrows.
Time to trust hope, not a catastrophic conviction. And, a creating of a different kind of belief. In the possibility of new love.