Written by: Adam Vaughn | July 14th, 2022
She Will (Charlotte Colbert, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
In an era where not only female representation, but female empowerment, takes the stage in many media, Charlotte Colbert’s feature-length film debut, She Will, serves to further these themes through suspenseful imagery, dramatic storytelling, and noteworthy direction of cast. Colbert takes pertinent and impactful messages about the female condition and utilizes subtle, yet chilling, elements of witchcraft and the supernatural to delineate her ideas. While She Will often feels like it is limiting its own potential, what is left is a solidly woven narrative that will surely pique the interest and excitement of audiences, feminist and otherwise.
She Will follows veteran movie star Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige, Gretel & Hansel) after she has just undergone a double mastectomy. Seeking to find solitude in a remote retreat in the forests of Scotland, accompanied only by her personal nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt, X-Men: Dark Phoenix), Veronica soon realizes that the getaway location she has chosen is the site of a dark but seductive presence: the burial grounds of thousands of witches from the early 1700s. As Veronica learns to utilize the powers giving her strength, she soon seeks vengeance for those who have wronged her in her life, including an abusive ex-director, Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell, The Big Ugly).
Colbert’s narrative relies heavily on expressionistic imagery, often employing fine-tuned editing techniques and cinematography to depict the horrific hauntings of paranormal forces. These images are frequently quite effective, depicting a seemingly malignant enemy that inevitably serves to right the wrongs done to women by men. A pivotal element of She Will is most definitely the dynamic between Krige and Eberhardt, as their patient-to-nurse interactions prove to be the most powerful parts of the movie. While his role feels underutilized, I found McDowell’s portrayal of a cinema legend with hidden secrets to be one of the more interesting parts of the film, especially given the swift justice (if not out of place for the film’s tone) his character receives by the end of the story.
While She Will has the content necessary to carry its drama through and through, I do find that the film does a great deal of battling itself in terms of style and mood. For a while, Colbert has a dreary, relaxed pacing, interrupted only by abstraction and experimental sequences. To me, this style restrains the story’s potential. Is Hathbourne truly the only person Veronica seeks vengeance against in her life? It feels odd if so. Furthermore, She Will introduces, but never fully uses, a supporting ensemble of characters: a group of people who have also traveled to Scotland for a retreat. To me, these characters seem thrown in simply to introduce and elaborate on the mythology of witchcraft that looms in the shadows. With the exception of a few scenes, their role feels sadly underwhelming.
For a first-time feature director, Charlotte Colbert does tremendous work establishing her film’s theme. While there are faults in the film’s style and writing, it certainly takes the ethos of witchcraft and does something new with it, containing eye-opening messages essential to a pro-feminist world and with major awareness of the trauma faced through sexual assault. Colbert makes a solid effort in establishing herself as a cinematic artist and I look forward to seeing her craft perfected in future endeavors.