Daisy Ridley Tries To Come Out Of Her Shell

Jan 27, 2023

PARK CITY – There is a moment toward the end of Rachel Lambert’s “Sometimes I Think About Dying,” part of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival opening night, when one character says to another, “It’s hard isn’t it being a person.” It’s not a question. It’s a statement. This particular character isn’t trying to be profound. They are just exasperated. And for Fran (Daisy Ridley), the sentiment seems to resonate with her more than the person evoking it could ever realize.
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Based on a 2019 short of the same title, “Dying” begins by introducing us to the place Fran appears to be at her happiest, her workplace. Set in a small city on the coast of Oregon, Fran is the decidedly shy member of her small office. Almost unnoticeable surrounded by a loud boss Isobel (Meg Stalter, wonderfully doing Meg Stalter things), and the slightly devious Garrett  (Parvesh Cheena), she keeps hidden in her cubicle doing what she enjoys the most, spreadsheets. When a longtime co-worker and office favorite Carol (Marcia DeBonis, so good you wish the movie was about her), retires, her replacement, Robert (Dave Merheje), arrives to perk Fran’s interest.
There is something about Robert that is decidedly different from Fran’s other co-workers. Perhaps its because he’s arriving from the big city Seattle, perhaps it’s his life experience. But he seems to realize his new crew is full of decidedly socially awkward characters. He also almost immediately tries to engage with Fran in ways her colleagues have never tried or given up on. He even asks her to see a movie at the local revival house which Fran seems to surprise herself by agreeing to.
At first it doesn’t seem like they hit it off. They don’t seem to have much in common and Fran barely speaks (to anyone frankly, it’s quite a silent role). And what the audience knows about Fran, the film’s main character, is almost all surface. She has a somewhat drab wardrobe, loves cottage cheese, and, oh yeah, continually daydreams about her death. Or, well, the aftermath of her death.
But over a piece of pie following the screening, a spark ensues. At least for Fran. If you can catch it. In the days following they continue to socialize, but we only seem to learn more about Robert. Fran’s past continues to be a mystery. And while her personality is slowly starting to emerge (credit to Ridley for making it a believable arc) Lambert continues to test the audience’s patience as we wonder where this is all heading.
It goes without saying that Lambert’s skill at stating the film’s surreal moments is genuinely impressive. She collaborates with cinematographer Dustin Lane and art director Robert Brecko to stage images that stick with you long after you leave the theater. But, outside of a showcase moment for Ridley in the movie’s third act, there isn’t much else that does.
You rarely find an independent film that has three credited screenwriters, but “Sometimes” does in Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, and Katy Wright-Mead. Throw in creative voices such as Statler, Cheena, and Merheje and the result is a film that often feels like it’s not totally clear where it wants to go. And despite one minor carrot about Fran’s upbringing, we truly know so little about her that something feels like it’s missing. Something that would make Fran’s emotional state resonate. And, in the end, unfortunately, that hole leaves you wanting. [B-/C+]
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