Die Tomorrow Review
Death remains the great unknown and most of us live as if it is never likely to happen to us at all. Which is perhaps the only sane way to deal with such inevitability, but even discussion of the topic can be seen as taboo. Maybe if we could accept it as part of our journey rather than a crushing end to our existence it would help us grow. Once you conquer the fear of death, what else is there to be afraid of in life? Whatever your beliefs it remains a largely unspeakable subject, and Thai director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit has reached an age where attending funerals has become a depressingly regular occurrence and his new film, Die Tomorrow, contemplates the meaning of death, its impact and absolute unpredictability.
Die Tomorrow is a blend of re-enactments and documentary-style framing, inspired by newspaper headlines of six people who died unexpectedly between 2012-16, re-imagining their final day alive. There are six vignettes in all, each running for between 5-10 minutes, interspersed with brief conversations with a young boy who is in the early stages of understanding the concept of death, and a 104-year-old man who has seen many of his loved ones pass before him. Shot mostly in 1:1 aspect ratio, it occasionally shifts to 16:9 at the end of scenes when the viewer is left to reflect on the previous short story.
Either before or after each segment we return to a black screen that offers minimal detail about how the person died. There is a danger the stories could be too fleeting and slight, but working with renowned Thai actors like Sunny Suwanmethanon, Jarinporn Joonkiat, Violette Wautier, Patcha Poonpiriya and Chonnikan Netjui ensures context and meaning is quickly established. Thamrongrattanarit’s film is about what is left behind when someone has gone, whether it’s the people it affects directly, or the ghosts that linger on in the spaces they once inhabited.
The film opens with mobile phone footage of a parent explaining to their young child that they will eventually die, and the raw honesty of their despair at this discovery speaks to our own refusal to truly accept that fact whilst in good health. It's usually kept at the far end of our existential thoughts and remains a place we rarely wish to visit. Additional text reminds us that as many as two people die every second, and a clock counter slowly racks up the numbers throughout the 70 minute runtime to finally total at 8,442 by the time the film ends.
The majority of the people we see are young, further highlighting death's cruel and indiscriminate nature. This includes a student who was hit by a truck as she went to buy beers for a graduation party, a young man who flew to the US for the week leaving behind his sick girlfriend (the subtle turn of this story is particularly effective) and a renowned musician who passed away in his sleep. Thamrongrattanarit’s simple use of the camera adds depth to these moments, drawing on influences of directors like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, while the casual, easy-going conversations we eavesdrop into elevate the characters despite the time constraints.
While it may sound too macabre to sit through, there are small stabs of humour that offer some levity. The underlying message is positive, one of embracing that the end of our time on Earth is beyond our control and to enjoy life while still accepting the role it plays in our existence. Occasionally Tongta and Pokpong Jitdee’s piano-led score is raised in the mix to haunting effect, as these reflections on lives lost ask us to ponder our own journey so far. None of us know if we are blessed enough to even see tomorrow, but the film encourages us to enjoy the time we do have within our grasp.
Die Tomorrow opens in select UK cinemas on July 26.