When a senior co-worker breaks down in tears at a small retirement party at the office, Fran (Daisy Ridley) does all she can to blink in desperation to leave. She takes her cake on the plate and quietly leaves the room. Fran is deliberately creating this distance from herself and the world, not because she is too far from it. As sometimes I think dying will reveal, the antisocial and bigoted Fran is trapped in her assumptions of belonging. She is someone who is trying to feel something for a change.
Directed by Rachel Lambert, Sometimes I Think About Dying is based on Stephanie Abel Horowitz’s 2019 short of the same name, which in turn was based on the play Colors by Kevin Armentobigens. It begins with meditative shots of a beach town on the Oregon coast. Some apples that block the sewer gate on the street, a flock of pigeons in the front yard, and blades of grass swaying in the breeze. It’s the small, slow moments of beauty that are close to France, yet she doesn’t really know how to appreciate them.
Cleverly expanding on the narrative of Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Kevin Armento, and Katy Wright’s feature film, Sometimes I Think About Dying shows how Fran goes the extra mile to stay relevant or make an impact. Without wanting to move forward every day. She gets up, gets ready, and goes to work where she locks herself in her cubicle. Then, she returns home, plays Sudoku, turns on the microwave, and goes to bed early. A group of her cheerful co-workers go through ways they may not be used to. As the day ends, with her barely speaking a word, Fran now thinks about death. She would like to know what it would feel like to not exist.
Things change when a new co-worker arrives in the form of cinephile Robert (Dave Murheje), who grows fond of Fran. Nevertheless, talking to France is an exercise in self-control for Robert, as he is talkative and, ultimately, over-sharing. At dinner, when Fran learns that Robert is looking for answers about her—she quickly changes the subject and excuses herself from the spotlight.
The beauty of Sometimes I Think About Dying lies in its distance—it never forces Fran’s backstory to expand or reasons to justify her actions. What happened to him that he is so hesitant? Where is his family? What is she hiding? These questions matter little to Lambert as she portrays the women’s loneliness and Fran’s sense of reality with quiet sympathy. Dustin Lane’s cinematography often captures the body from awkward angles, reflecting a terrifying disconnection from the immediate environment. As the relentless gaze progresses, it becomes clear that this is as much a deeply empathetic look at mental health and loneliness as it is about a yearning to be understood.
Daisy Ridley plays Fran with sensitivity and poise and elevates the drama several notches. When Fran finally cracks a smile or dares to actively ask about something, it’s a memorable sense of relief, and the actor makes it all work beautifully. Her scenes with Robert, played beautifully by Marhajee, are bound to make you root for her. In the end, sometimes I think it’s a little shy about helping our Fran get a better view of herself about dying, but it does your attention with a delicate feel. It takes some time to see ourselves from the perspective of those who love us. But when it does, the world becomes a better place to live. One doesn’t have to change to notice them, just a hug is enough. It is not just the thought of death, but the will to live that takes to see a new day.