Sometimes I Think About Dying: Sundance 2023 Film Review

Year: 2023


Runtime: 91 Minutes


Director: Rachel Lambert


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


Stars: Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Marcia Debonis, Meg Stalter, Brittany O’Grady  

By Morgan Roberts

“It’s hard being a person.”

Fran (Daisy Ridley) leads a banal life. She works in an office, keeps to herself, and daydreams about dying. But her usual thoughts and spreadsheets are interrupted when Robert (David Merheje) comes on as a new hire. After a painfully boring icebreaker question at the start of a meeting, Fran expects to be overlooked and blend into the background, but soon finds herself befriended by Robert. 

The film is quite moving. On the surface, it is a simple film about people leading seemingly mundane lives. But the film forces us to look at people who are typically hidden in the background. Fran, with her neutral-toned clothing and quiet demeanor, is one easily overlooked in an environment which caters to outgoing extroverted people. But with Robert, someone who is charismatic and kind, the fact that he has taken notice in her awakens something. Is it a desire to not be alone?  Is it a desire for connection?  Is it a strive for what everyone else has?  We are left with those questions to mull over as Fran attempts to live outside of her comfort zone. She goes out after work to the movies with Robert. She initiates the two of them having dinner together. She goes to a murder mystery party.  Fran is a person so detached from others, that she believes herself unworthy of their attention or affection. And so, she thinks about what her death would look like if she happened to wander into the forest and die, or if she was in an unexpected car accident. 

Daisy Ridley appears in a still from “Sometimes I Think About Dying” by Rachel Lambert, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The film is grounded by a truly phenomenal performance by Ridley. Fran is a tough nut to crack, but she does not allow her closed off nature to make her any less human. She does want to be connected, she does wish to excel at her work, but she doesn’t quite have the skills to do it. Again, she is forced to function in a world that does not adapt for her, which does not accommodate her needs. It would have been easy for an actor to reduce Fran to her eccentricities. Ridley, rather, gives texture and depth to Fran, even though it is a bit guarded. You begin to understand Fran’s realization that maybe everyone else also finds living difficult, but are still open to the pain if it allows them joy. The film also has a stellar score from Dabney Morris. It truly sets the tone for the entire film and aids the moments of surrealism. Meanwhile, the cinematography by Dustin Lane captures the best of Astoria, Oregon, a small town with a history of big adventures – “The Goonies”(1985) was filmed there. Lane truly understands the majesty of this rural community.

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” is anchored on the principle that even the things which appear mundane and ordinary are just as important. That there is worth and magic in “average.” There are people in this world who are not viewed as extraordinary, but they are deserving of attention, affection, and love. It’s an ode to all the Frans in the world who may not feel their lives are worthy of recognition and adoration.

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