[Fantastic Fest Review] ‘She Will’ Casts a Beguiling Spell of Retribution


The opening title card’s preceding text reads “Dario Argento presents” fits in a certain sense; She Will operates within the realm of dreams. It’s a story relayed through potent and mesmerizing imagery over a traditional narrative structure, and women drive it. The connections cease there. She Will offers an intoxicating visual feast, casting a beguiling spell of a slow awakening and reckoning.

Alice Krige stars as Veronica Ghent, a famous actress seeking a tranquil recovery after a double mastectomy. She travels to a retreat in the Highlands, accompanied by young nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt), but moves even deeper into the woods when the hotel guests fawn over the actress’s presence. Veronica forms a unique connection to the land, especially while asleep. Her trip coincides with the impending knighthood of Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell), the director that earned acclaim from the very first film that launched Veronica’s career. Through Veronica’s dreams, locked away memories resurface and awaken something within.

Director Charlotte Colbert makes an impressive, confident feature debut with She Will. She puts her multi-media artist background to excellent use here, creating a singular vision that’s instantly mesmerizing. Film, by nature, is a visual medium, but the way Colbert approaches it in telling Veronica’s story is unique. It’s earthy, bold, and bewitching. It’s a quiet, moody type of tale that lets Clint Mansell’s score, the imagery, and the frequently non-verbal performances by the talented cast do the heavy lifting.

Colbert, who co-wrote the script with Kitty Percy, is unhurried in capturing Veronica’s awakening. Dreamlike sequences of Veronica almost floating through the nearby woods, touching everything in her path from the wet, peaty soil to slugs to everything between becomes the primary way we understand the land’s history with witchcraft and how it relates to the present. For Krige, it’s a different type of showcase for her talents. The actress time and time again delivered potent, powerful genre characters, but her power here comes from vulnerability. Veronica’s double mastectomy leaves her profoundly exposed on an emotional level, and Krige brings elegance when tapping into the dark magicks. Eberhardt also shines as the doting assistant that encounters more than she bargains for amongst the locals when she takes a night off. The only downside to this purposeful plot beat is that despite how potently it resonates, what happens feels a little out of character for the otherwise savvy Desi.

Elegance is likely the operative word to Colbert’s potent debut. Think more Gothic horror drama than an overt fear-inducing tale of revenge. McDowell and supporting player Rupert Fiend play pivotal roles, but they’re relegated to the background, for the most part, to let the journey of feminine witchcraft slowly unfurl. Between the haunting score and Colbert’s effortless style, She Will eschews a conventional narrative and instead casts an atmospheric spell through tactile, dreamy visuals. It’s less of a nightmare and more like a darkly magical dream. Those that prefer their witchcraft movies more deeply rooted in horror will likely take issue with the meditative pacing, and its payoff might not be worth the wait. But those that don’t mind a horror adjacent, artful take on witchcraft will find themselves in for a breathtaking visual feast set deep within the Highlands.

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