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She Dies Tomorrow is a film that is first and foremost about creating a mood, and I wonder if you might be able to guess what that mood is based on just the title. Hint: while "tomorrow" is a word with a negotiable definition in this case, the title is not ironic.

The film, writer-director Amy Seimetz's second feature in those capacities (she's had a career that has floated between a lot of jobs as a member of the loosely-defined constellation of indie filmmakers that includes people like Adam Wingard, Kentucker Audley - both of whom act in this very film! - Joe Swanberg, and her ex-fiancé Shane Carruth, against whom she has since taken out a restraining order), is about feeling bad in a very particular way. That's not a useful description at all, I know, but part of what gives the film it's gloomy power is that it's easier to feel the feeling than name it. It's not quite depression, it's not quite despair, and it's not quite anxiety, though all of those are reflections of it, and it's too piercing and disabling to airily refer to it as simply "malaise". It is the conviction that things are terribly bad, and they're definitely going to get worse soon, but approached with a kind of morbid resignation that, well, it'll be what it'll be.

It is a feeling that is already being felt by Seimetz's namesake Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) when we first meet her as she shuffles leadenly around her new house. This opening sequence of the film is probably its best, or at least it's most distinctively weird and morbid: cinematographer Jay Keitel keeps things preposterously underlit, making the movie feel oppressive and impenetrable even without a single plot point or line of dialogue to reinforce that. And reinforce it they do: for an oppressive feeling is very much what the film is about. Amy is suffering from that unnameable emotional weight I just mentioned, and it's given a specific identity soon enough, but in the early going here, all we can tell is that she's deeply unhappy and disaffected, with the darkness yielding up images of her moving through this thoroughly unwelcoming domestic space in a kind of ritualistic manner, her whole body seeming consumed by ennui. As the film will demonstrate shortly enough, Sheil is not maybe the greatest actor when she's called upon to deliver dialogue - her line deliveries are all very studied in a way that ought to match the stylisation of the film, but somehow doesn't - but she's quite good at the physical acting that dominates the early parts of She Dies Tomorrow, turning her body into a shapeless collection of limbs lurching through spaces and throwing itself against walls. The opening sequence is almost a ballet on the themes of depression.

After some minutes of this, Amy is approached by her friend Jane (Jane Adams), who is greeted with a hell of a line of dialogue, as Amy muses in a noncommittal way that it would be good if she could be turned into a leather jacket after she dies. And here we learn what's going on with her: she is convinced, as convinced as you or I are that the sky is blue and water is wet, that she is going to die tomorrow. Not of anything specific. Just that it's going to happen. It's a distillation of the hopeless, no-way-out feeling of depression into pure nihilism. And it turns out, it's contagious: all that needs to happen is for someone suffering this feeling is to describe it out loud to someone else, and that person will spread it to whomever was listening. So it's a dark mirror image parody of depression on top of everything else: talking about it literally makes things worse.

This is a potent metaphor, though I'm not sure that the film does very much with it (I'm also not sure how far the metaphor extends - existential anxiety isn't really contagious, even if it makes the people around you feel bummed out more than they might). Having set this scenario up, She Dies Tomorrow is basically content to let it just play out: Amy gives it to Jane, who brings it to a party, and we keep watching people getting overrun by this perfect feeling of hopeless misery, as bright blue and red lights seem to come from out of nowhere to flood the shot that they're in, in a beautiful, toxic display of otherworldly colors that work pretty well to shove us into different emotional registers - never the one that the characters are feeling themselves, necessarily, but enough to give us a sketch of their present feeling. It's a striking visual, well-applied, but we do see it a lot, and always doing the same thing. And this is surely part of the point: anxiety/depression/you name it, as a feeling of constant "this is the same thing over and over again, crushing me into infinity". But as a movie, She Dies Tomorrow starts to repeat its observations and its way of dramatising those observations pretty damn early, and even at just 85 minutes, it feels like it's scrambling to fill all of its running time.

That  being said, the thing it's doing works fairly well, especially with the extravagantly unreal use of color. And also, it must be said, its bleak sense of humor, which comes in just often enough for this to avoid being a total slog through a cornucupia of emotional disorders. It's not funny, but it has a sarcastic streak, one that especially shows up in Adams's performance, which finds the absurd core of the scenario in little small beats (it also shows up, in slightly broader form, in Chris Messina and Katie Aselton's work as Jane's brother and irritable sister-in-law). This is both a necessary palate cleanser from all the gloom, and a way of acknowledging the way that skating by on irony is a means some people might have of dealing with the emotional turbulence the film explores.

That being said, the film's first priority is still creating a very piercing feeling of mental anguish, reflected in the performances, the lighting, and the well-chosen application of Mozart's Requiem (the "Lacrimosa" - the very extra-sad part - of course), which is especially gratifying given the film's somewhat sound design. There are way too many points where there's a cut right in the middle of a piece of music or a sound effect, and while the suddenness of the shift in volume creates an increasing sense of tension (this is, nominally, a thriller, though one that deliberately quashes its genre elements beneath its psychological introspection), the film goes to this well so many times that it starts to feel like a nervous tic more than a creative choice.

Still, it does one thing very well, and it does it with no little amount of style. I am not certain the film passes the why test - for what reason am I being exposed to all this very persuasive portrayal of emotional suffering and hopelessness? It offers no trace of catharsis, and its fixation on capturing the mood of depression and anxiety means that it doesn't have much interest, or time, to actually examine those mental states; it simple presents them, clarifies that they suck and make it feel like you can't do much of anything but give in, and then we're done. It ends up being a bit dismal to sit through - dismal on purpose, and dismal with enough flair and cinematic instinct that I think it's definitely worth keeping an eye on where Seimetz goes next. But this definitely doesn't feel like something I could actually recommend to, like, anybody.