As the mind-bending thriller 100 Days to Live begins, a woman practices yoga in a Chicago park. She greets a young neighbor who goes to play on the nearby jungle gym. When the boy looks her way again, the woman is gone and in her place is a photo album with the words “Tanya Was Saved” emblazoned on the cover. Tanya is the latest victim of a serial killer the police have dubbed “The Savior” who stalks his victims, documenting their lives for 100 days before he kidnaps and kills them. Initially this seems to have little to do with the movie’s protagonist, Rebecca Church (Heidi Johanningmeier), a mental health professional who runs a suicide prevention support group and has just gotten engaged to Gabriel Weeks (Colin Egglesfield).
However, when Gabriel steps outside to smoke during a lunch date and doesn’t return, Rebecca learns from detectives Jack Byers (Yancey Arias) and Greg Neese (Chris Johnson) that he’s been taken by The Savior. Rebecca quickly recognizes the killer as Victor Quinn (Gideon Emery), a former colleague from a suicide prevention hotline — a revelation made even more upsetting by the fact that Rebecca believed Victor was dead. As the movie flashes back to both the development of Rebecca’s romance with Gabriel and her time working with Victor, she and the detectives frantically investigate Victor in the present day, hoping to find him and figure out his motives before it’s too late.
Suffice it to say what Rebecca discovers about those motives packs a wallop. 100 Days to Live contains several unexpected twists and turns, making it a surprising — and surprisingly rich — experience. It’s an accomplished debut feature for entrepreneur Ravin Gandhi, who wrote, produced and directed the film while maintaining his day job as CEO of GMM Nonstick Coatings. Gandhi’s objective is to entertain, and the movie certainly accomplishes that with a nail-biting story that adheres to the basic structure of a thriller. However, by using suicide and mental health as the engine that drives the plot, the movie takes on deeper, more existential dimensions. As a result, although the production is small, the psychological and moral questions it brings up are hugely thought-provoking. Moreover, the movie doesn’t offer any easy answers, leaving the viewer to grapple with the implications of the characters’ choices.
The heady story is enhanced by strong performances, particularly from Johanningmeier and Emery, that make it easy to overlook some of the story’s plot holes, of which there are a few. The actors also do a good job conveying the complex challenges of working through one’s own mental health struggles and of supporting others as they do the same. In addition, the movie’s production and costume design, by Stacey Buckner and Jessica Sheehan, respectively, are smart and evocative, helping to subtly convey information about the characters and how they’ve evolved over time.
Because of its focus on suicide, 100 Days to Live could be triggering for those who have had a loved one take their own life or who are experiencing suicidal ideation. However, for anyone else who enjoys a gripping thriller that will leave you contemplating the many questions it raises long after the movie ends, 100 Days to Live is a consistently absorbing watch that will keep you guessing to the very end.