Out of the many interesting titles at Fantastic Fest 2021, She Will is absolutely a standout film. For me at least. It’s beautiful and haunting and affecting in subtle and meaningful ways, and it left me feeling both powerful and at peace. It’s one of those films that sneaks up and gets you in unexpected ways. The beautiful imagery and powerful story are brought to life by a fantastic cast, and everything comes together in a way that is just breathtaking.
Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) is a well-known actress with an impressive career under her belt. Having recently undergone a double mastectomy, she travels to a remote retreat in Scotland with her nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt) to recover. When they arrive at the house, they find that instead of being the small women’s retreat that they had anticipated, it’s a larger gathering. The people in attendance are perfectly comfortable walking right up to Veronica, even in her weakened state, and trying to socialize, much to her weary chagrin. Instead of staying with the group, they opt for a small, private cabin on the property, somewhat secluded from the rest of the grounds.
The women settle in and Veronica tries to rest and regain her strength. Though she seems comfortable and relatively at peace in the small house, she finds herself having strange dreams. Odd feelings come over her every day, and she even finds herself sleepwalking through the silent forest. Something is calling out to her, but she doesn’t know what.
The land that now houses the retreat facility once bore witness to something dark and hateful. During the eighteenth century, as fears and accusations of witchcraft swept across Europe, this land hosted a number of innocent women being burned at the stake due to fear and ignorance. The ground below is now permeated with the remnants of their centuries-old ashes.
The ash isn’t the only thing that remains here. The land still carries the memory of these women, and it is with this memory, this power, that Veronica mysteriously connects. As she is pulled deeper under its spell, she begins to heal—not just from her physical wounds, but from her psychological wounds as well. Trauma that she endured as a teenager and has carried with her for decades begins to be addressed and fought. She finds a renewed strength, and a power that she has never before known.
Alice Krige is an amazing actress and the range of characters that she has played over her career is incredible, but I was particularly struck by the way she carries the strength and the vulnerability of Veronica in equal measure. Thorny on the outside, but barely able to hold it together on the inside, we see this character go through a wide range of emotions over this story, particularly as we get nearer the end and she is finally beginning to deal with the trauma that she encountered as a girl. It’s a fantastic performance.
Director Charlotte Colbert offers a story as rich in visuals as it is in emotion. It feels like you’re in the Scottish forest alongside Veronica. You can almost feel the dampness in the air and the soft touch of the moss at your feet. She paints the story in the greys of the fog and the greens of the trees, and everything has an air of ancient mystery to it.
This air of mystery extends to the plot as well. She Will’s strongest element is the way it approaches the subject of witchcraft. It’s not overt. Rather than calling out witchcraft as a specific plot point, Clymer uses it to tell a story about a woman reclaiming power that has been taken from her. Veronica is connecting with women who came before her and using their power to fuel her own sense of self and healing. And conversely, the spirits or essences of those women lift her up and give her the strength that she needs to break free.
Movie Score: 5/5
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