Daisy Ridley Shines in Dark Comedy

Jan 23, 2023

Sometimes I Think About Dying, by director Rachel Lambert, begins with several scenes of beauty within mundanity. A deer runs down cement stairs in a neighborhood; dozens of apples have congregated on a sewer grate in the street; a gigantic flock of pigeons swarms to a man’s front yard. For Fran (Daisy Ridley), she has a hard time appreciating these moments of small beauty in life the way other people do. Fran works at an office where they would probably say that they feel like family and mean it, yet Fran always distances herself from the group. When a beloved coworker retires, she waits in the back of the party, grabs a piece of cake, then scampers off to her desk. It’s almost as if Fran wants to get through each day making as little of an impact on the people around her as possible. And yes, occasionally throughout her day, she thinks about what it would be like to die.

As one character says in the film, “It’s hard being a person,” and Fran makes this statement abundantly clear. Whenever she talks—which is an extremely rare occurrence—it’s almost as if she’s nervous that the other person will regret learning more about her. And while her coworkers see the beauty in saying goodbye to a coworker they see every day, or the simplicity in going to see a movie and getting pie, it’s these little joys, these little moments of beauty in the mundanity that Fran finds difficult in her day-to-day.

Based on the 2019 short of the same name from Stefanie Abel Horowitz, which itself was based on the play Killers by Kevin Armento, Sometimes I Think About Dying is about depression, but without ever expressly stating itself as such, and the struggle that depression can cause in just trying to get by. But Sometimes I Think About Dying—written by Armento, Horowitz, and the star of the short, Katy Wright-Mead—is also about allowing people in, letting them accept you, flaws and all, and how there aren’t easy answers for depression.

This is especially true with the arrival of a new coworker, Robert (Dave Merheje), who takes a liking to Fran, and the two begin a complicated relationship. Robert overshares maybe too much, whereas it’s difficult to get Fran to open up about herself in any way. Whenever Robert asks Fran a question, she replies as if there’s no reason anyone would want to know anything about her, and yet, she’s a fascinating character to follow. As details about her trickle out, and we start to piece together more of who she is—most of which are details we gleam through her actions, not through her telling—we see a wonderful person who is much more interesting than she believes herself to be.

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Ridley is excellent in this extremely reserved and quiet role. Since Fran isn’t saying much at all, her actions—quite literally—speak louder than words. The way she sneaks out of a room shows just how desperately she wants to avoid interactions with others, but a small smile or the briefest interest in intimacy can seem like a monumental accomplishment. Despite the restrictions Fran has towards the world around her, Ridley is deeply hilarious here, often curt, usually surprising, and blunt in her observations in a way that is frequently laugh-out-loud funny.

But it’s especially beautiful to see the way that Fran slowly opens up with Robert. These two couldn’t seem more opposite, but watching Fran accept someone else into her bubble slowly but surely is absolutely wonderful. At times, Sometimes I Think About Dying can almost like an extremely muted romantic comedy, one that is extremely hard to read how it’s actually going. Yet while there are moments that border on a love story, this is really more about a person learning to accept that other people might want to have her be a part of their lives. It’s a story of self-acceptance, but in the smallest of steps towards positive progression.

Lambert does an excellent job of handling this film’s tone, which always seems like it’s just a poor choice away from becoming irritatingly twee, yet it never does. Fran isn’t “quirky,” she’s uncomfortable and unsure of what seems to be her every moment. She has confidence that she’s good at her job, but that’s where her positive outlook on her life seems to end. While Fran’s actions might seem a bit extreme in their reticence, it’s hard not to relate to that level of uncertainty, nerves, and fear over getting too close to someone.

Lambert is able to expand the 2019 short in ways that keep the tone, but make this story much more insular and captivating. After watching the short, it seems hard to imagine how this could be expanded into a feature-length film, and yet after 90 minutes with these characters, it’s hard to not want even more of them. The short at least gave us some insight into our mostly silent main character through narration—which, apparently, this feature had originally—but by cutting that narration, Fran remains even more of an enigma, and yet, she’s even more relatable because of this choice.

Sometimes I Think About Dying is a dark comedy of restraint and quiet, but that silence holds an incredible amount of power and emotion. Ridley gives what might be her best performance, and Lambert knows exactly how to balance the delicate mood of the film. Everything, from the production design that actually makes a bleak office still look inviting, to the score by Dabney Morris that almost brings to mind a fairytale of sorts, is pitch perfect. Sometimes I Think About Dying shows the beauty in the things we might think of as unremarkable, whether it’s the little moments that break up the mundanity in our every day, or even in ourselves.

Rating: A-

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