You'd be forgiven for assuming Sometimes I Think About Dying to be a dark, somber film with a title like that; but Rachel Lambert's latest feature is instead a life-affirming story full of warmth and heart. Through captivating performances and quietly compelling direction, the film is a wonderful narrative that nails the challenges of being lonely and socially awkward when we desire human connection.
Daisy Ridley is on top form as protagonist Fran, who autonomously goes through the mundane cycle of work, eat and sleep. And yes, she often pictures herself dead in picturesque locations. Fran's posture and movement tells us everything about her character in her scenes. Sometimes I Think About Dying gives Ridley the space to develop Fran without uttering a single word, making us empathise with her all the more.
What is also established early on is the small town vibe and seemingly dull office environment. These characters have always lived here, or have been here for some time, and revel in the tight-knit community and simple lifestyle. Again, time is taken for the audience to become acquainted with Fran's colleagues. You learn to enjoy their company over time, just as Fran does. The film is also very, very funny. Ridley doesn't just deliver a great dramatic character study but also shows off her comedic chops with hilariously deadpan humour — which makes Fran all the more endearing. The warmth and humanity at the core of the film is a central part of the thematic elements at play. It all culminates in a truly wonderful murder mystery party sequence where you're having as much fun as the characters are.
There's a deceptive simplicity to the film. Shots are generally static, with clever blocking and affecting sound design accomplishing the heavy lifting. The viewer is constantly experiencing the inescapable small-talk (which is often hilarious if you tune in) and humming of equipment in the office space. Sometimes I Think About Dying is a small film that feels important as a result. You're unknowingly pulled into Fran's world through the film's precise craft and technique.
Those who feel lonely, or are stuck in a meaningless cycle, will truly get a lot out of this wonderful film. I imagine that's quite a few of us. Fran's character arc and the wider narrative builds towards a final scene that will surely draw a lot of emotionally cathartic tears. After the credits roll, you'll want to spend more time with this small Oregon coastal town community; and maybe with the people in your life too.
Sometimes I Think About Dying premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, as part of the ‘U.S. Dramatic' competition. The film is currently seeking international distribution.