Some human beings are ready and willing to go from thrill to thrill – filling their cup with the excitement of new adventures. Then some people flow through the simple minutia of the day just fine or trying to find their place in a world that begets constant forward motion. In those moments, you can drift away and hope you can make some choices to have a firm hand on that runaway train.
In the opening moments of Sometimes, I Think About Dying, we meet Fran (Daisy Ridley), who leads some who would think a rather boring life. She gets up, gets ready, and heads to work at an office where all her co-workers have an outward rapport with each other. The standard "how-was-your-day," sometimes innocently oversharing about weekend plans things. Fran is a bit of a wallflower – many times, it feels that she doesn't exist at all.
While she goes about her day, some intruding thoughts about death fall into her mind. At one point, she's lying dead on a beach. Another time Fran wonders what hanging from a construction crane outside her window would feel like. Director Rachel Lambert's funny and sometimes melancholy film is not so much a meditation on someone wanting to pass away. It's more so that they feel so isolated from everything; there's a dread of changing anything around in that specter and how difficult it can be.
Honestly, you'll feel for Fran. As her co-workers celebrate the retirement of the popular Carol (Marcia Debonis), Fran doesn't know what to write on the card. She takes some celebratory cake back to her desk while everybody expresses joy. Ridley conveys feelings during the first part of Sometimes, I Feel Like Dying through facial and physical cues. Her character has almost no speaking parts at first.
However, everything changes when her new extensive cinephile co-worker Robert (Dave Merheje) shows up. His introduction comes through a company welcome meeting where everybody says things about themselves, their favorite food, etc. We come to find out Robert has a weirdness to him. That carries over into him speaking with Fran through messenger with a funny icebreaker. They decide to go to a movie together, where the wall Fran has built slowly starts to come down. Fran's deadpan delivery of compliments will invoke some laughter and sympathy for a person trying to forge a connection.
Robert's uniqueness feels like a perfect match to elevate how muted Fran has made herself – at least until he asks about her past. Fran meets this inquiry with harshness. This comes from the spirit of her wondering why someone would find her interesting. Anytime we get to see Fran outside of being in a communal setting involves these fantasies paired with making dinner for herself. So is she right? Well, not necessarily. Everybody has something interesting about them. While Lambert's expansion of Stefanie Abel Horowitz's short film doesn't say it, there's a sadness inside Fran. However, her uncomfortable feelings when she's exposing herself to new situations aren't treated like a butt of a joke. It's a person who tries to figure things out as she lays on her floor for 24 hours because a particular rush of feelings hits her in a foreign way.
But we should be cheering for Fran or anyone who decides to tip each toe in waters that will take them away from their comfort zone. The writing team of Horowitz, Kevin Armento, and Katy Wright naturally bombard Fran's character as she decides to open up. Sometimes she succeeds, and others, she doesn't. Even as she gets to drop an extensive death fantasy at a murder mystery party, people pause for a second and then welcome her in. Perhaps, community will always find a way to meet us if we let it.
There are times when Sometimes, I Think About Dying feels stretched because it was initially a short film. More often than not, it's an exploration of someone fighting through the hold of being alone or having the courage to break out of seclusion. In this particular town of Seattle, the film is set in; it's mainly cloudy and overcast – then slightly becomes more pronounced as it continues. Maybe by joining in the flames of others, we can find our way out of the darkness.