Sometimes I Think About Dying is incredibly profound in the most subtle ways. Based on the 2019 short film of the same name, director Rachel Lambert (In the Radiant City) crafts a feature so quaint yet emotionally resonant all the same. A comeback for lead actress Daisy Ridley – who’s dabbled in few acting roles since closing off the main Star Wars saga with The Rise of Skywalker – the delicate script here allows her to give a layered, complex performance, unlike anything she’s ever pulled off before. Sometimes I Think About Dying sees Ridley in both her most comedic and vulnerable state, balancing all too real human despair with ace deadpan humor. It’s a whole new side to the actress that proves she still hasn’t shown fans what she’s fully capable of, and that’s only scratching the surface of why this peculiar indie gem works so well.
We follow Fran (Ridley), a lonely woman who’s content with the daily routine of her quiet lifestyle, or so it seems. She lives and works along the Oregon coast, creating and filing spreadsheets in an office job that’s so mundane we never actually find out what its purpose is. Filmmaker Rachel Lambert uses this office to present a space that’s almost too painfully average. It’s just happy-go-lucky common folk walking in and out of meetings and small chat, unbothered by anything existing outside of their sphere. Fran is the all-seeing fly on the wall here, getting by on work without ever inserting herself into conversations or unnecessary confrontations. She often gets lost in the wilderness of her own mind, counting down until she can arrive home, snack on some cottage cheese with wine, and call it a night to do it all over again the next day.
Fran’s life is soon interrupted by Robert (Dave Merheje), the new guy who takes up the office cubicle across from hers. Robert’s personality is seemingly just as vanilla as anyone else’s in the office, but he still finds a way to sweep Fran off her feet through the simple sweet act of acknowledgment. As the two begin to take it (extremely) slow, we discover that there’s more to their unexpected spark than meets the eye. Make no mistake, Sometimes I Think About Dying is not a traditional love story. It’s a tale about self-love and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Though this isn’t easy for an enigma like Fran, her go-to response being “it’s not that interesting” whenever Robert asks any questions about herself. If she’s to open up to someone else, a potential lover no less, Fran must finally come to terms with her own terminal depression.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that suicidal fantasies boil under Fran’s skin every day, and the sudden arrival of a love interest isn’t nearly enough to make them go away. Sometimes I Think About Dying takes a nuanced approach to conveying depression. Rachel Lambert and cinematographer Dustin Lane use tidy and symmetrical framing to capture the isolated space of the office and Fran’s lonesome apartment. When Fran escapes into her vast mind, uncanny surrealist imagery shows how our protagonist daydreams herself into a lesser existence. Sometimes I Think About Dying excels in visual storytelling, letting its sensitive material speak for itself rather than spoon-feeding it to an audience. This makes for a sincere portrayal of Fran’s mental health that is only bolstered by Daisy Ridley’s multi-faceted execution. Things may be inherently dour, but Ridley’s comedic chops have also never received this strong of a spotlight.
Sometimes I Think About Dying strikes gold in that precious middle ground of levity, finding plenty of time to have a good laugh in spite of its heavy story. In fact, it’s more laugh-out-loud hilarious than it has any right to be. The film brings out the liveliness in the mundane, making something as common as a workplace meeting or game night with friends naturally comical by just how real everyone in the room feels. On the other hand, Daisy Ridley is playing it as straight-faced as she can while still giving enough soul to the character. Ironically, she often seems like the most normal person in the scene, which makes for great comedy. When Fran’s stern and cold personality is juxtaposed against our group of realistically plain folk, Sometimes I Think About Dying perfectly shows how even the little things in life are worth admiring.
Dave Merheje of Ramy fame deserves equal praise as Robert, our knight in not-so-shining armor. The film paints Robert as an easygoing average joe with barely enough swagger. He’s not here to magically cure Fran’s depression with a kiss, or invalidate her simple wants and needs. Merheje gives a noble take on the male love interest who must first learn how to truly hear out Fran even when she isn’t speaking. Merheje and Daisy Ridley’s chemistry is quite charming and infectious, carrying a quirky awkwardness that so many rom-coms try so desperately to catch. Together, they make cute minuscule acts like sharing a slice of pie or exchanging favorite movies feel as genuine as it gets. Moreover, the entire cast ensemble makes everything so hilariously relatable. Character actors like Parvesh Cheena, Brittany O’Grady, Bree Elrod, Meg Stalter, and Marcia DeBonis all get their fair share of memorable bits.
Lastly, much of this film’s success stems from the involvement of the original team behind the 2019 short, which itself was based on the play Killers by Kevin Armento. Original director/writer Stefanie Abel Horowitz and Armento himself returned to write the feature screenplay alongside Katy Wright-mead, who also wrote and starred in the short. They imbue the spirit of the source material while still separating the feature as its own unique entity. Sometimes I Think About Dying carries a fable-like aura, no fewer thanks to its soft cinematography and Dabney Morris‘ sweeping score. Despite Fran being a sort of damsel in distress sticking out from this surface-level harmony, the writing team shapes her narrative like an inverted princess story. Prince Charming enters the picture but only our princess can save herself. In the process of redefining each other’s classic roles, they end up finding a deeper human connection.
Though some will argue that the film’s runtime grows tedious, its relaxed pacing is key in building a cinematic window into everyday life. This leads to a pensive atmosphere where it often doesn’t even feel like we’re watching actors on screen, but real people with tangible highs and lows. Sometimes I Think About Dying carefully depicts the kind of depression that only gets more overbearing as it slowly creeps in over time. Feelings of sadness or regret over not living the most exciting life like others or boasting as many accomplishments. It’s a very common struggle that Daisy Ridley portrays ever so sincerely in her most idiosyncratic performance yet. This “romantic dramedy” may require more of your patience, however, the way it balances dry humor and unfiltered drama to share a message of self-love and appreciation is just such a gift. It’s never been more okay to be normal.