Monday, March 4, 2024

Movie Review: ‘She Will’ Addresses Women’s Fears

Director: Charlotte Colbert

Writer: Charlotte Colbert

Stars: Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell

Synopsis: An aging film star retreats to the Scottish countryside with her nurse to recover from surgery. While there, mysterious forces of revenge emerge from the land where witches were burned.

Aging star Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) attends a Scottish retreat with nurse Desi Hatoum (Kota Eberhardt) after a mastectomy, and the eerie outdoors help Veronica face her disturbing past thanks to past burnings at the stake and future astral revenge against her former director Hathborne (Malcolm McDowell) in the 2022 Dario Argento (Suspiria) produced She Will.

Writer and debut director Charlotte Colbert opens She Will with eerie lake reflections and upside down vistas paralleling the looking up at overhead surgery eyes, skin, and lipstick. A brief narration tells us of the layers of masks and make up rituals we use to preserve ourselves as the ticking clock speeds faster. She Will immediately establishes its female audience and sense of ageism with breasts making the woman a woman societal pressures and the extremes women go through to attain our warped sense of beauty. The furs, sunglasses, and red lips look Old Hollywood out of place in the forested, isolated Scottish quaint, for wealth and grand train cars can’t overcome the trouble sleeping, tunnel metaphors, and painful breast prosthetics. Men don’t like to see these chest scars, and the real life scary is evident in a sad woman holding her fake breasts in her hands. Tabloids also abound with her then and now face alongside repeated mentions of Navajo Frontier as Veronica’s big ingenue film and retro footage of Malcolm McDowell as the famed director who discovered her. Other guests at the retreat chant with yoga, crystal pedestals, and champagne amid storms, stone ruins, and the 1722 grave markers commemorating the 3,000 witches burned there. The wide lens panning camera captures the awkward fish bowl interactions, smartphone lights flashing, and adoring people in your face commotion as dreams of our past starlet collide with flashes of blood, knives, screams, and nightmares reflecting her traumatic state of mind. Veronica walks in the woods and feels like she has been there before – apparitions of encroaching mud, moss, bonfires, and incantations aren’t herky jerky strobe meant to scare the audience but rather nature calling in unnatural ways. Drawing with charcoal made from the local ash purported to have healing properties leads to automatic writing, Gaelic words, and phallic images. The retreat therapist suggests how we see is ingrained by the patriarchy, but a male guest who says hysterical women bite the hand that feeds them, i.e. men, has his hand catch fire. Whispering winds, dreams of witches, and memories of Navajo Frontier blur as bruised girls in white float back to the nighttime city – circling the talk show sets with astral observations of Veronica’s former director. She promises supernatural torment to come thanks to the projection as empowerment. What Veronica thinks can happen, and past and present women connected by pain combine for a vicarious paranormal experience. Nature, spirit, and healing are in tune as Mother Earth responds to the cancers within with all consuming horror.

Malcolm McDowell’s director Hathborne likes to court controversy. Life long consequences to a thirteen year old girl be damned in the name of art! When asked if he was unlawful and went too far, he disturbingly justifies his “making her into something” by capturing the exploration of their special bond for Navajo Frontier. To Hathborne, hindsight is distorting how he only wanted the best for his special girl. She knew what she was doing and how dare she be ungrateful to him now! She Will provides truthful conversations and commentary on the maturing too soon gaze. Even the character’s name is an excellent personification of the actions he hath wrought coming back to haunt him. Kota Eberhardt’s Desi does her best to care for a patient that doesn’t want to be told what to do. Both women resent each other but know they need one another, and Veronica gives Desi advice to be teeth and claws when the retreat staff flirt with her. Local men try to scare Desi with rumors of the past witchcraft, and viewers fear for her walking into town alone with no reception even if she enjoys the drinks and compliments. Of course, the pressure to stay for another round gets out of control, and the ladies come to an understanding in the rite of passage women must endure. Unfortunately, Veronica’s class and sophistication aren’t enough when the hair wrap, wrinkles, and drinking mini liquor bottles make her feel old and delicate. She’s reluctant to join the retreat’s group activities and scoffs at their mumbo jumbo about the stars aligning. The rustic cabin is not her style and Veronica prefers to be alone, but she is not without wit – joking that their situation is just like a horror movie with her young nurse is the isolated maiden soon to be sacrificed. Veronica doesn’t want to be babied, yet both admires and is jealous of Desi because she can be anything she wants to be. She says Desi’s short white, edgy, androgynous haircut is attractive in the young, but it’s repugnant to the old ghosts in her bed. Veronica wants to look in the mirror and be happy, and getting dirty outside and letting her hair grow wild takes away her pain. Her renewed connection to the earth makes for a second chance, and Alice Krige deserved awards notice for She Will.

Although the blue digital gradient is noticeable and we don’t need an astral cool moment every time once the connection is established; red firelight and orange lanterns accent the moon, fog, and ash falling from the sky. Rippling rain, assorted reflections, screens, and mirrors create distortions of ourselves. Swirling smoke and water photography invoke the winds, thunder, and spooky Clint Mansell score as the ye olde beats match the barefoot in the woods levitating, ancient trees, and mud baths. She Will becomes brighter – shining the light on its ills with Expressionistic stairs, black and white patterns, square buildings, and harsh architecture versus the natural green wilds, organic visuals, and red metaphors of the women’s domain. At 97 minutes, She Will feels a touch long with a redundant end where the dialogue and revenge projections in action are hard hitting enough. This is probably too weird or overly feminine for some mainstream audiences, as She Will forces us to pay attention to our mother daughter relationships, women’s horrors, and real world consequences.

Grade: A 

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