Sometimes I Think About Dying

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Rachel Lambert’s low-key yet compelling drama Sometimes I Think About Dying serves as a formidable showcase for the acting talents of Daisy Ridley. Normally, an indie gem like this comes before the discovery of an actor, said discovery then propelling them to stardom and big-budget fare. In Ridley’s unconventional case, however – she was thrust into the largest cinematic franchise of all time with next-to-no features on her resume – the opportunity to display what she’s capable of truly hasn’t arrived until now. It’s an earnest film with humble ambitions, but Ridley single-handedly turns it into something special.

She plays Fran, who leads the quietest of lives in a small coastal town, one that’s perpetually gray, its cacophony of seagulls incessant. Fran follows a bleak routine: arriving at the office every weekday to spend it listening to – never participating in – all the inconsequential small talk. Daisy likes to imagine herself dead, her body sprawled in the woods or amongst logs on the beach, her visions as romanticized as they are dour.

“…likes to imagine herself dead, her body sprawled in the woods…”

One day, the outwardly happy-go-lucky Robert (Dave Merheje) arrives to replace a coworker. Fran finds herself engaging in conversation with him, on IM at first, then in person. He infiltrates her vaguely suicidal visions. She agrees to go to the movies with him. This turns into a date, which turns into more. Of course, inevitable complications arise as his past surfaces, and her impenetrability becomes a factor.

Lambert and her team of writers elegantly handle a deeply minimalist story about the most introverted person they could have imagined. The dialogue between the leads, both tender and not a little awkward, resonates. It’s tough to name a standout sequence in a film that doesn’t aim to stand out necessarily. Yet, it’s probably a tie between a “murder game” at a party that also involves cracking crabs and a touching conversation between Fran and a heartbroken retiree Carol (Marcia DeBonis), at a café.

Ridley is splendid. “Hi, I’m Fran. I like cottage cheese,” her mousy Fran introduces herself at an office meeting. Little, if anything, is revealed about her, but the actor imbues the character with just a spark of trauma, as well as a growing eagerness to embrace things outside her morbid little comfort zone. Dave Merheje provides a welcome contrast, an infusion of joie de vivre and humanity that prove irresistible.

Sometimes I Think About Dying sublimely portrays the monotony/minutiae of cubicle life. Lambert and her team emphasize the importance of human connection, living each day as if it were your last. These themes may not be novel. The narrative may prove a bit indeterminate and slow-moving to jaded audiences. Yet it remains an incisive and unusual little tale, which we could certainly use more of – something I, personally, think about all the time.

Sometimes I Think About Dying screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

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