At the age of 13, Veronica became a star in a movie directed by “auteur” Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell). A remake is now planned, also to be directed by Hathbourne, and his sudden emergence in the press again—their pictures paired together on tabloids after so many years—along with the mastectomy, has rattled some things loose from Veronica’s past. In a talk show interview which Hathbourne assumes will be friendly, the host ambushes him with questions about his “inappropriate” relationship back in the day with the 13-year-old actress he discovered. Hathbourne is so flustered he vomits—on air—after sputtering some nonsense about how things were “different back then.” They sure were.
Along with co-writer Kitty Percy, Colbert has crafted a rich tale centered on an intergenerational relationship between two women—Veronica and Desi—who slowly thaw to one another as Desi steps into her caretaking role, and Veronica steps into her own power. Desi realizes there is something not at all right about what is going on at this retreat, and wants to get her charge out of there as quickly as possible. The most interesting thing, though, is that Veronica—when faced with the horrors of the past (her own and womankind’s, in general), she is strengthened, she is not at all afraid. Her reckoning with the past is long overdue.
There are a couple of missteps in “She Will,” one being Desi’s experience with a local guy, who seems like bad news from moment one. It’s an attempt to loop Desi in to the “fate” of women, but it’s unnecessary. The relationship between Veronica and Desi is paramount and the two actresses do a marvelous job creating that hesitant trajectory, from mistrust to trust.
Cinematographer Jamie Ramsay has a field day with the hallucinatory qualities inherent in reality: the trees like quiet sentinels, the thick mist obscuring mysterious fleeing figures, the stray thin light wavering through musty windows. Nothing is on the level; everything appears to whisper of something else. The whole world looks weird. Ramsay has a lot of fun with doubling. For example, a still lake reflects the surrounding landscape in such a dizzying way it is impossible to tell which is the reflection and which is the reality. The images are pieced together impressionistically, not literally, by editors Yorgos Mavropsaridis and Matyas Fekete, creating a post-traumatic sense of the haze of painful memories, collective and otherwise.
Some pasts are too painful to look at directly. Veronica finds within herself the strength to look, and in so doing provides a powerful example to the young Desi of transforming pain into something else. Fire doesn’t just destroy. It purifies.
Now playing in select theaters and available on demand.