Fantastic Fest 2021: She Will

While not every moment hits the mark in this operatic horror, the sections where all the components gel make this a formidable feature debut for Charlotte Colbert.

Synopsis: After a double mastectomy, actress Veronica Ghent travels to a remote place in Scotland in order to recuperate. However, the land around the retreat radiates with a dark power that will ultimately help liberate her from a traumatic past.

Our first introduction to actress Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) is a difficult one, at best. She is somewhat prickly towards her nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt) and despite the immense pain she finds herself in, still insists on wearing her prosthetics, even when warned that it is too soon. Krige plays her as stern, but quickly that exterior gives way to a physical and emotional vulnerability. Krige and Eberhardt’s chemistry allows the relationship to flourish into something deeper than nurse and patient, becoming sisterly and even motherly at turns. Eberhardt ably matches Krige’s gravitas, but allows Desi to bring a softer side out of the rather more spiky Veronica.

There are times within She Will that the visuals dominate, resulting in the kind of absorbing, dreamy horror that adds a potent atmosphere. However, this focus on the visual and a tendency towards more theatrical performances in some segments does mean the dialogue does occasionally become a little clunky and that will undoubtedly alienate some. A few of the quirkier happenings feel somewhat forced, not adding much to either the tone or plot, which is a shame when all the other themes converge in a way that lends the film its power. The surreal imagery, when threaded through the narrative works far better than the throwaway, off-kilter elements.

She Will, like its central figure, is at its best when fully realised and in control. Colbert’s roaming character not only enters rooms with characters, but invades their space. Initially these choices feel odd, but as the rest of the film leans into its flowing imagery, this becomes far more cohesive, satisfactory and injects further energy. The film balances the way that the woods appear sinister as well as beautiful – a force that is not fully understood, but not necessarily harmful. At one point there is a reference to the wind sounding like whispers, a suggestion that the earth itself is offering solace and power.

The film’s treatment of trauma is stand out. While a growing number of films tackling the fall out from trauma have tended to take a more nihilistic tone in terms of the potential for recovery, She Will, as its title suggests places the agency with Veronica and her potential for growth. While these more confronting portrayals are necessary and powerful, it is somewhat refreshing to see a film in which a woman who is on the path to being consumed by her trauma uses it to turn the tables and become a consumer, wrestling back a level of control over her life and body. Like many films this year, this is coupled with a desire to reconnect with the earth and uses the location as an agent for that self-discovery. The imagery is beautiful, even when it also threatens, switching between the two modes in a way that becomes a flow, rather than a clash.

The confidence in creating a film that so fully realises itself and central characters in a debut suggests excellent work to come from Charlotte Colbert. Stay through the credits for a charming cover of The Killing Moon too.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

She Will screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2021. See the schedule for more information.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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