Sometimes I Think About Dying


Reviewed by: Jeremy Mathews

Sometimes I Think About Dying
"The film wonderfully captures the dynamics of workplace small talk." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The quiet type at the office is one of the more peculiar characters to base a movie around. It’s difficult to portray someone who internalises her emotions and doesn’t talk about her life, as she can create the same distance with the audience that she creates with those around her. Sometimes I Think About Dying unflinchingly takes on the challenge and shows that you can pull humour and pathos from the quietest characters.

Artfully directed by Rachel Lambert, the film places us directly into the perspective of Fran, played by Daisy Ridley. It’s an opportunity for actress/producer Ridley to show off her ability to work on a small scale after breaking out as a star in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. It might not be the safest career move to jump from a sabre-wielding hero to someone who doesn’t want to even talk about what she thought about a movie, but Ridley impressively gives the character a charming likability that earns the audience’s sympathy even when her behaviour offends those around her.

Refusing to engage in the social pleasantries of the workplace, Fran would rather sit in uncomfortable silence than have a contrived conversation. She exists outside of workplace chitchat, quietly sitting at her desk and working on spreadsheets while everyone else jokes about hand-me-down office equipment or complains about how the cruise ship is blocking the view of the mountains. Meanwhile, she can barely scribble a few words on her co-worker’s retirement card, let alone sing along when her colleagues bring out the cake. (The simple retrieval of a slice of cake even feels like a covert operation.)

As Fran observes it from the outside, the film wonderfully captures the dynamics of workplace small talk. There’s a certain rhythm and cadence to the inside jokes and pleasantries that isn’t frequently depicted, and the ensemble cast has it completely dialled in. Ridley ultimately sells the humour by quietly providing Fran’s perspective.

Fran allows a slight chip in her armour when a new employee, Robert (Dave Merheje), makes some jokes on the office messaging app after requesting office supplies. Fran replies in kind, and makes in laugh. Next thing she knows, she’s joining this new film-buff co-worker for a movie, followed by pie at a local restaurant. And then the waitress, whom Robert already made fast friends with, invites them to a party with even more people.

Without much help from the dialogue, we get a window into Fran’s psyche via Ridley’s expressive body and facial language, and through Lambert’s precise framing and surreal Interludes that serve as the titular morbid thoughts. These deaths are more meditative than gruesome — during one quiet moment, Fran’s mind drifts toward forest scenery, and then imagines her corpse in that forest. In others, predatory animals approaching her from behind in the office.

Sometimes I Think About Dying doesn’t deliver any profound new observations about human relationships, but it does come at them through a new unique viewpoint. Fran’s evolution as a person can feel a little stagnant and then a little rushed at times, but it’s easy to connect to her story and hope that, somehow, she can let her defences down enough to let herself be happy.

Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2023
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Fran likes to think about dying. It brings sensation to her quiet life. When she makes the new guy at work laugh, it leads to more: a date, a slice of pie, a conversation, a spark. The only thing standing in their way is Fran herself.
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Director: Rachel Lambert

Writer: Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Katy Wright-Mead

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Marcia DeBonis, Meg Stalter, Brittany O’Grady

Year: 2023

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: US

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