Jill and I are always partial to a witchy tale and have covered more than a few in our time. This week’s film is no exception, with very pleasing results, by way of not so pleasant subject matter, including sexual assault, ageing out of a chosen career and having to socialise against our will.
With that in mind, heavy TRIGGER WARNINGS for assault, which is implied rather than overtly explained, but it’s horrific nonetheless.
SHE WILL (2021)
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.
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller ∙ IMDB user rating: 5.4
My score: 4.5/5 ∙ Runtime: 95 mins
Director: Charlotte Colbert ∙ Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt
Veronica Ghent (Krige) is a former film star. Following a double mastectomy, she and her nurse Desi (Eberhardt) arrive at a remote retreat in Scotland so she can continue to heal. Unfortunately, the pair turn up expecting to be left very much alone but due to some confusion, end up part of a larger party of colourful characters, including a surprise Rupert Everett.
The site where the women are staying is steeped in history as it was where women were burned as witches centuries ago. The women’s ashes fill the land which can only have a profound effect on our protagonist as she wrestles with past trauma and an uncertain future.
Some context for the trauma – as a young girl, Veronica was the star of a film by movie director Hathbourne (McDowell), who appears to have used unethical and brutal means to get the creative results he wanted. In present day, Veronica is reliving these events while Hathbourne reboots the film, vigorously auditioning for her replacement.
As expected, Veronica soon starts to absorb the energy of the land, gaining power and grounding from her sisters before her – and this leads her to the closure she so desperately needs. While she enjoys this unexpected journey, she bonds with her nurse, a young woman with trauma of her own.
Regarding the plot here, there’s not much more to it, Veronica and Desi take in the country, feel the oozing mud between their toes, reluctantly spend time with Tirador (Everett) and co doing activities and learning the local history. When one of the party challenges Veronica she sets fire to his hand with her mind.
Meanwhile, Hathbourne answers some difficult questions on the talk show circuit and finds himself haunted by an unknown entity, which he deserves one hundred-fold and then some.
Will Veronica find peace – and give herself to the land once and for all, or is there another chapter untold for her?
Desi: “Any pain?”
Veronica: “Every pain.”
She Will is visually stunning and beautifully scored (by composer Clint Mansell), there’s no denying it. The performances are top notch and the setting too had me reaching for a jumper, I could practically feel the chill coming off the trees. I felt this film profoundly perhaps because of my own biases (feminism/witch loving) – but maybe it’s also because we all have our own traumas, and I can identify with that feeling of helplessness.
If we were given the opportunity to get back to our roots – to squelch through the dirt like our ancestors – wouldn’t we do the same? Especially if magic was afoot, showing us how to gain peace and wreak havoc on the villains of our stories at the same time. This fantasy alone was enough for me but I love Charlotte Colbert’s approach – the notion that revenge isn’t the end for Veronica, it’s the beginning of a new chapter – and it made me very happy.
I guess you could say things are sometimes left quite ambiguous, but I think the horror of what Veronica went through as a young woman is handled with exactly the right level of sensitivity. We deal more with the aftermath than the incident itself – and Veronica’s dream-like recollection of events fits the tone of the film well.
The surrealism of this film might not be for everyone though and it is all rather neatly resolved, but I loved it. I also appreciate the examination of ageing and decay, what constitutes femininity – and the addition of the obnoxious side characters were joyful too. A hard recommend from me.
Witches, yo – you’ve got to love them.
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