Review: The Emotional and Supernatural Haunt an Aging Actor in Promising Debut She Will

In a moderately impressive example of style over substance, director and co-writer Charlotte Colbert (in her directing debut) gives us the story of aging film star Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige, still game to get down and dirty) who arranges to do some post-surgical recovery (from a double mastectomy) in the Scottish countryside in the company of of her young nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt). It’s clear from the outset that Veronica has grown into a difficult person, perhaps with good reason, and the ever-patient Desi is doing her best, a task made more difficult when they arrive in the healing retreat only to discover it’s crowded with fans of the actor, also in recovery (Veronica had been led to believe they would be isolated in the establishment).

Co-written with Kitty Percy and executive produced by horror master Dario Argento, She Will opens up a few interconnected elements in Veronica’s past that shape her emotional vulnerability and the time she has left in this life. We learn she became a star when she was cast at 13 in a film opposite an older actor (Malcolm McDowell), and there was always talk that he took advantage of her during the production. The filmmakers cleverly use vintage footage of McDowell to tell that part of the story, but present-day McDowell does a pretty great job of being inappropriate as well when he is interviewed on a talkshow about the allegations, which he doesn’t exactly deny.

Back in Scotland, some force connected to the property and grounds itself (apparently witches were burned there centuries before) seems to unlock something in Veronica that helps her get revenge on those who have hurt her or those she cares about, even if those who abused them are hundreds of miles away. Director Ghent infuses She Will with giallo-like visual qualities (in other words, lots of closeups of eyeballs), but the cumulative effect makes its point. The way she makes the woods surrounding the property come to life is especially freaky, and establishes the film as a solid work of folk horror as well.

But on a deeper level, She Will is about an older woman having substantial doubts about her entire career and what it was built upon, and how this childhood trauma haunts her to this day. As a result, Veronica and Desi become close, and Desi becomes especially protective of her patient as Veronica begins to cope with and make choices based on a past that will never stop haunting her. There’s no denying that Krige and Eberhardt are pained perfection in these roles. When an older actor is called upon to play a character questioning her own existence, it’s going to feel personal and honest and earth shattering, and Krige delivers a riveting and shockingly intimate performance. Eberhardt exudes caring and strength, while finding ways to make sure it’s clear Desi will take shit from no one, including Veronica.

The filmmaker doesn’t quite connect the emotional and the supernatural, but it’s clear the boundaries between the two in Veronica are melting away, as her environment both gives her power to enact revenge and drains her to make it happen. She Will (even the title has several readings and meanings) is sometimes too murky for its own good, but it’s a memorable debut from Ghent, and I’m genuinely excited to see what she brings us moving forward.

The film is now playing in select theaters and on VOD; it will launch on Shudder October 14.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.