Sometimes I Think About Dying
Director: Rachel Lambert
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Marcia DeBonis, Meg Stalter, Brittany O'Grady
Sometimes I Think About Dying has been adapted from a play and a short film, and has now made its way to the big screen and Fantasia International Film Festival in 2023 with director Rachel Lambert and Star Wars star Daisy Ridley leading the way. Despite its moody title, the film is not as downcast as it may seem. In fact, it offers a strong examination of social inclusion, anxiety, and the mundanity of everyday life.
"Lambert finds beauty in mundanity and poetry in sadness, best reflected in Fran’s daydreams."
The story follows Fran (Ridley), a woman who suffers from social anxiety and awkwardness. She finds solace in her day-to-day routines, whether it's working with spreadsheets at her dull office job, eating cottage cheese at home, or indulging in daydreams about her death, which provide her with a sense of eerie calmness. Her small team at the office, all polite and cheery, leaves her be (though damn, did I feel the pain of those office get-togethers) but when new recruit Robert (Merheje) arrives, Fran begins to let her guard down and forms a friendship with him.
Sometimes I Think About Dying takes its time, offering a near-slice-of-life framework that showcases Fran's routines and behaviors. Ridley's performance relies heavily on physical acting and she delivers a melancholic portrayal with real confidence. The supporting cast, which includes Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Meg Stalter, and Marcia DeBonis, all deliver admirable performances, with DeBonis delivering an especially sharp monologue towards the end of the film.
The cinematography, from Dustin Lane, reinforces the mundanity of the city and feels like a visual representation of Fran's feelings. Astoria, Oregon, where the film is set, is a charming port city that Lane captures eloquently, but the lingering establishing shots have a deliberately muted feel. Despite this, the film never feels boring or meandering, and Fran's anxieties are portrayed respectfully. The narrative remains compelling throughout (it actually contains a surprisingly effective jumpscare) with Lambert finding beauty in mundanity and poetry in sadness, best reflected in Fran's daydreams.
Crucially, the film eschews any particular melodrama when it comes to how Fran sees the world and also how she fits into it (and tries to). Her worldview isn’t trivialised or cliche - it’s strangely relatable, though a closer look at the character and her psyche would have been appreciated to add that bit more depth that was lacking. But it’s a role that many viewers, myself included, could probably see themselves fitting into easily. She doesn’t give off the air of someone who is suicidal or who hates life, but her quiet fantasies provide her with solace and escapism without ever feeling too heavy or overly surreal.
While Sometimes I Think About Dying could have explored its themes further, it offers a fascinating exploration of loneliness, comfort in solitude, and disconnection - but also connection. It handles its core themes gently and with authenticity, leading up to a final, beautiful shot that leaves the characters' future up to the viewer's interpretation.
August 7th 2023