Sometimes I Think About Dying
Every day, Fran (producer Daisy Ridley, "Star Wars'" Rey) sits in her cubicle tapping at her keyboard, barely interacting with her coworkers. Every evening, Fran returns home and pours a glass of wine before she’s even taken off her coat, then stands while eating cottage cheese. A new employee, Robert (Dave Merheje, TV's 'Ramy'), casually suggests she join him for a movie and Fran becomes obsessed with this potential new relationship yet is utterly unable to share anything about herself in “Sometimes I Think About Dying.”
Laura's Review: B
This is the first example I can recall of a short (Stefanie Abel Horowitz's from 2019) being adapted into a feature directed by someone other than the original auteur. Rachel Lambert steps in and achieves a precarious tonal balance among deadpan office comedy, quirky romance and more serious issues like loneliness and depression. Daisy Ridley, who has seemed to be struggling to forge a post-“Star Wars” identity, achieves that here with her interior yet relatable performance.
Expanded by the short’s scribes Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, and Katy Wright-Mead, the first impression we get is the comedy inherent in office banality as two male office drones stand by the window complaining about their view being blocked by a parked cruise ship (the film was shot in St. Helens, Oregon, named for its view of Washington state’s volcano). In our first peek at Fran’s inner life, we see her handed a going away card for Carol (Marcia DeBonis), the woman whose cube Fran views from behind, and as she hesitates thinking of something to write, she flashes through a montage of all she’s absorbed about the woman from her odd perspective, all forgettable everyday moments. We’ll get a more in depth picture of Fran’s place among Isobel (Megan Stalter), Garrett (Parvesh Cheena), Sophie (Brittany O'Grady), Amelia (Bree Elrod), Tellulah (Lauren Beveridge), Emma (Ayanna Berkshire), Sean (Sean Tarjyoto), Doug (Jeb Berrier) and Rich (Rich Hinz) during Carol’s actual party where she hovers at the door, eventually grabbing a piece of cake and retreating to her desk, unmissed.
Everything changes with Carol’s replacement, Robert, who, not knowing any better, greets Fran in the break room and sends slightly flirty chat messages about obtaining office supplies (we never learn just what, if anything, is done in this office). Office manager Isobel, who informs Robert that ‘we have a lot of fun here,’ asks everyone to introduce themselves by stating something that they like and shallow connections are made by shared loves of movies and Thai food. Fran can only mumble ‘cottage cheese.’ Still Robert persists, offering that he also likes it to the room’s general silence. Later, in another chat, he admits to Fran that this is his first job. ‘I’d keep that to myself,’ she responds, and indeed, given the man’s age (and subsequent revelations), it is an odd confession.
While Fran struggles through that movie Robert mentioned, telling Robert she liked nothing about “Dazed and Confused” even as he’s decided it’s his favorite of the year so far, her world begins to open up by just venturing out. She’s gained enough confidence to order Irish coffee at the end of dinner, although we’ve begun to notice a reliance on alcohol. When the pair is invited to a party by a stranger, Fran goes hoping to see Robert, who, while still friendly hasn’t suggested another date, arriving with a bottle of wine in hand. This time she’ll make an impression with an impromptu explanation for how she is found during a murder mystery game, at least with the others. But it is another impromptu situation, Fran’s chance meeting with a despondent Carol on a ferry, which emboldens her to take a chance.
We can see Ridley, costumed in plain skirts, sweaters and flats that help her disappear into the woodwork, just about try to create negative space with Fran, who is so meek she’s spooked by being noticed. Yet the character is observant and the playful nature of Robert’s texts, especially as he is engaging her in something she deems herself good at (ordering supplies), awaken her curiosity, something Ridley conveys to us without drawing attention from the ensemble surrounding her. The filmmakers take us into her head with a series of reveries as she imagines herself lying on a forest floor, feet together and arms outstretched, a sacrificial lamb of her own making.
The film’s final minutes celebrate human connection in the most touching way, Fran finally opening up by suggesting Robert might wish for her erasure. “Sometimes I Think About Dying” is like a Pacific Northwest Sundance take on an Aki Kaurismaki film with Dabney Morris’ (2021's "Procession") music adding a dab of nostalgic Americana.
Robin's Review: B-
Fran (Daisy Ridley) lives a quiet, isolated life and keeps to herself at work. When a new hire, Robert (Dave Merheje), comes on board, he thinks that his new colleague is funny. This leads to a date and totally uncharted territory for the young woman in "Sometimes I Think About Dying."
Director Rachel Lambert and team of scribes – Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Kevin Armento and Katy Wright-Mead – create a believable workplace story that begins with Fran at home, eating, sleeping and thinking about death. Then, she goes to work.
This is where the story of Fran in the office place comes in and it feels like a real, lived in place with all the characters that make up an office workforce. While many officemates are examples of colleagues we have all had, the prime example of familiar workmates has to be Isobel (Megan Stalter), the chirpy, intrusive office manager who always seems to get in people's faces. I have known these folks in real life.
It is hard to assess, for me, whether Daisy Ridley gives a good, subtle performance as Fran, or one in which she sleepwalks (pun intended) through the role. I am thinking more the former than the latter with her deadpan delivery and furtive body language. Dave Merheje plays being the new guy in the office as, well, the new guy in the office and, like the supporting cast, does a good job. It all felt like a believable place to me.
Oscilloscope Laboratories releases "Sometimes I Think About Dying" in select theaters on 1/26/24. Click here for play dates.