Sundance Film Festival Review – Daisy Ridley Anchors the Entertaining Human Comedy ‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’

Sundance Film Festival Review – Daisy Ridley Anchors the Entertaining Human Comedy ‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’
Sundance Institute | Photo by Dustin Lane

It’s often hard to explain natural impulses and the things that fill our dreams, or even our waking moments. Thinking frequently of one’s own death might seem morbid or terrifying, but it can also provoke a more neutral curiosity. That’s the case for the protagonist of Sometimes I Think About Dying, an antisocial office worker who spends more time with her own thoughts than other human beings, and who slowly opens up thanks to the arrival of a new coworker who finds her much more interesting than she finds herself.

Fran (Daisy Ridley) doesn’t show much enthusiasm for any of her colleagues in the small office where they all work, writing an unsentimental “Enjoy retirement” on a farewell card for Carol (Marcia DeBonis) and sneaking a piece of cake out of the celebration so that she isn’t forced to socialize. Robert (Dave Merheje) is hired to replace Carol and emails Fran to ask her a question, prompting an unprecedented banter that leads to out-of-office trips to the movies and meals. Robert is chatty and friendly, the opposite of Fran’s stoic and silent nature in, which even her contributions to conversation – like that cottage cheese is her favorite food – don’t invite any follow-up.

Sometimes I Think About Dying is based on a thirteen-minute short film of the same name that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019. In one sense, there really isn’t that much content to be found in this feature adaptation, but its simplicity works to its advantage. Fran almost doesn’t seem real, coming to work every day and just doing her job as coworkers gab around her all day long and still treat her in a friendly way despite her lack of social reciprocity. Robert permeates the solitude she has created for herself, inviting himself in subtly and cautiously asking questions she has little desire to answer. She’s also prone to curt statements that come off as unkind, and which also hit with a note of humor because it’s hard to believe that she could be that oblivious to every social cue.

The death imagery referenced in the title adds a dimension of seriousness to the film, if only because Fran seems to find comfort in living in it. She moves her fingers nervously as she struggles to get through a one-on-one interaction with Robert, and then goes home to have a lengthy daydream that finds her nearing her demise, something that lasts for a while before she wakes with a start. Robert’s entry into her life can be seen as a revitalization of sorts, someone taking interest in her when she had written herself off entirely. It’s particularly fascinating to see how much Fran gets into a murder mystery at a party, astounding the other guests with the specificity and creativity of how she had apparently been killed.

Ridley is best known for her role as Rey in the latest Star Wars trilogy, and it’s rewarding to see her headline an independent film in which she doesn’t speak much and there’s next to no action. She knows how to calibrate Fran’s reactions to each situation to elicit an uncomfortable laugh, and her chemistry with Merheje, an established comedian, is delightful. The two of them often feel as if they’re existing in their own little world, though the supporting cast does include enjoyable appearances from DeBonis, Parvesh Cheena, Meg Stalter, and Brittany O’Grady.

But their roles are appropriately limited since, in all the time their characters have sat next to or across from Fran, they’ve never managed to elicit much energy. Purposeful cinematography and an emphasis on small details that might otherwise go unnoticed help give audiences a peek into Fran’s worldview, one that rarely proves memorable, making those moments that do stick out all the more emphatic. Sometimes I Think About Dying succeeds at being endearing and uncomplicated, spending some sincerely entertaining time with its two protagonists as they navigate something resembling a social or romantic relationship.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Sometimes I Think About Dying makes its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

Comment (0)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here