Trauma weaves its path underneath the skin. No matter how much we try to bury it, keeping it locked away so we don’t have to see it, its roots are deep. It never truly leaves us. It imprints itself into our cells, changes its very makeup and when it’s time to finally acknowledge its presence, it will come to collect. Sometimes all it takes is another traumatizing event to force us into introspection, and the reckoning that comes levels everything we know. This and more are explored in Charlotte Colbert‘s SHE WILL.
SHE WILL follows Veronica (Alice Krige) who is recovering from a double mastectomy. Steely and full-of-attitude, on the surface, Veronica is a tough nut to crack. However, the invasive surgery along with the news that the film that put her on the map is being remade has brought memories bubbling up to the surface. These memories plague her, with violent dreams bringing her concerned nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt), into the picture. It is for these reasons she travels to a retreat to escape from it all. But what she finds is not escape, but cathartic release. It is in her dreams that she is finally given the gift of seeing her vengeful desires come true.
Within minutes of the film’s start, we are introduced to the mind of Veronica. In a well-executed voiceover monologue, Alice Krige’s Veronica breaks down the function of masking. Taking off the mask and revealing the person underneath is one of many themes residing in SHE WILL‘s screenplay. The dialogue Colbert and Kitty Percy have written often carries deep meaning in the film. Nothing is at a surface level. Instead, we must dive into what is said and go deeper.
Alice Krige’s Veronica acts as a conduit. Due in part to recent stories that have come out over the years, we all have someone in our lives who has experienced the same, if not similar to what Veronica has experienced. Through her performance and the direction from Colbert, it is easy to sink ourselves into a pool of empathy as we watch Veronica’s journey play out. Krige’s Veronica may have a hard shell keeping everyone out, but there is pain. There is loss. There is a vulnerability in a woman who was forced to grow up far too quickly without anyone there to protect her.
Kota Eberhardt‘s Desi brings out a variety of emotions in Veronica. A caretaker, Desi is there to ensure that nothing happens to Veronica and that she is healing. The older woman’s stubbornness aims to keep the young woman away, but Desi doesn’t stop. As Veronica’s walls start to crumble, their relationship transforms. Almost parental in a way, the two interact as guides and protectors.
Heightening the introspective and psychological nature of the film is how SHE WILL is shot. The settings featured in the film are shot as if they too are characters in their own right. Sweeping shots of the lakeside and forest heighten the disparity between Veronica and the universe. Nature itself threatens to swallow us whole. Its presence is overbearing at times onscreen. A large part of this is all due to cinematographer Jamie Ramsay. This larger-than-life feeling is further amplified by how Veronica’s arc progresses, and both her journey as well as the visuals come hand-in-hand here.
Marketed as a revenge film, SHE WILL arguably fails in this regard. This is in despite of what we see transpire. Part of this is due in part to how Colbert and Percy have constructed the script. So much is left up to audience interpretation. The dreamlike atmosphere in which we’re immersed lends itself to muddying these tidy narrative waters. The film’s framing makes Veronica an unreliable narrator as she slips in and out of focus. What is dream and what is reality is left up in the air as a result and dampens the full-revenge potential as marketed.
If you’re looking for a frightening film, SHE WILL may not be for you. Instead, Colbert invites to you explore the atmosphere she has built. A slowburn of a tale, we are invited in to watch as Veronica reconciles with the past, present, and future. All battle for supremacy in her mind, but it is done under the observation of the natural surroundings she has sequestered herself in. By film’s end, the audience won’t be able to turn away. Such is the empathy and care that Krige’s performance pulls from the viewer. And it is that empathy that drives the point of this fairytale-like film home.
While light on revenge and scares, SHE WILL is gorgeously atmospheric, with a haunting performance from Alice Krige.
IFC Midnight will open SHE WILL in select theaters and on-demand on Friday, July 15, 2022, with Shudder taking the first streaming window.
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