Written and directed by Charlotte Colbert, co-written by Kitty Percy, after a double mastectomy, declining movie star Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt). With her own identity in doubt, Veronica starts to confront past traumas endured on movie sets. The two women develop an unlikely bond as mysterious natural of the wilderness give Veronica the power to enact revenge. Also starring: Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett, Amy Manson, Olwen Fouéré, Daniel Lapaine, Jonathan Aris, Jack Greenlees, Apple Yang and Stephen Adjei-Kyem.
The wave of women-led and made horrors taking over the scene as of the last few years has been a fantastic thing to witness and brought along some brilliant films. She Will attempts to carve out its name on that list and succeeds. One of the interesting and somewhat unique elements of this film is how it plays with genre, it has a quirky tone and is rooted in horror but plays with touches of murder mystery, comedy and arthouse cinema. There’s an undoubtable darkness to it, but it also has a sneaking playful edge. It’s very well done and always a huge bonus in any film to blur the lines of its genres and create something different, without having to become obscure. That’s also one of the aspects it does skilfully, it is odd and unusual but in an accessible manner. Although there are a few overt choices in its final moments which feel somewhat undermining of its otherwise fairly subtle yet strong style. It falls into the common trap of trying to up its game for the big finale and it really didn’t need to. One consistent factor though is the cinematography (by Jamie Ramsay) which is effortlessly strong throughout.
Charlotte Colbert and Kitty Percy’s writing uses a lot of heavy themes but presents them in a way which isn’t overwhelming, letting them stew in the back against its creepy and curious foreground. It’s both an advantage and a disadvantage, it doesn’t try to cheaply use revenge and abuse, but it also would have been great to see the idea of the ancestral abuse of women more directly involved. It has its part to play but it comes across as opening a path rather than an integral part of the story. However, as an exploration of past trauma it works well; isolation, vulnerability and mortality bringing to the fore the horrors of Veronica’s past. They’re fairly short lived moments but the context and emotion is immediately clear, it speaks for itself and especially so in an era of women opening up about experiencing abuse. Though as it nears its end it does feel like it has slightly overestimated the bond that’s been built between Veronica and Desi. It doesn’t really get going until late in the game and then playing such a pivotal role in its final scenes, it never quite got the focus it needed to cement those moments or add a bigger feel of satisfaction.
In a simpler sense though the connection is there, Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt work well together, there’s a more unspoken bond as they find common ground despite being very different people. Krige brings the aging starlet to life in ways both expected and unexpected, there’s the classic egotism and vanity but also a lot of self-reflection, a deep presence and darkness. Eberhardt on the other hand is full of kindness, generosity and curiosity for knowledge. Rupert Everett makes a memorable, if brief, appearance where he fully embraces the strange artist type. Malcolm McDowell feels a little perfunctory, but mostly because he gives us simply what’s expected and there isn’t a great deal for him to do. He’s well skilled to bring the typical manipulator, dictator-esque presence.
She Will is yet another film to add to the fresh generation of women-made horror, embracing the darkness, using creativity and ingenuity to breath new life into the genre and style. It brings an unusual mix of being dark yet playful, almost as if you blended A Cure for Wellness, The Other Lamb and Coraline, the latter mostly being because of its use of music and that playful edge. Alice Krige brings a touch of classic Hollywood while Kota Eberhardt represents an utterly modern generation, clashing together two utterly different worlds but finding a connection in empathy and common struggle. There are a few weaker points but they don’t distract from its overall quality, it has a strong aesthetic, as well as an artistic edge and is compelling throughout, viewing its entire story through satisfyingly suspicious eyes.