Sometimes I Think About Dying (2024, dir. Rachel Lambert)

by | Apr 18, 2024

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 93 mins

UK Distributor: Vertigo Releasing

UK Release Date: 19 April 2024

WHO’S IN SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING?

Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Marcia DeBonis, Meg Stalter, Brittany O’Grady, Bree Elrod, Lauren Beveridge, Ayanna Berkshire, Sean Tarjyoto, Jeb Berrier, Rich Hinz, June Eisler, Treasure Lunan

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Rachel Lambert (director), Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz and Katy Wright-Mead (writers), Brett Beveridge, Lauren Beveridge, Brittany O’Grady, Dori A. Rath, Daisy Ridley and Alex Saks (producers), Dabney Morris (composer), Dustin Lane (cinematographer), Ryan Kendrick (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

An introverted office worker (Ridley) befriends a new work colleague (Merheje)…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING?

Early on in director Rachel Lambert’s Sometimes I Think About Dying, Daisy Ridley’s deeply introverted character Fran monotonously declares she likes cottage cheese, during an office meeting where everyone is stating their favourite foods for the new employee Robert, as played by Dave Merheje. Moments later, Robert shares his own love for cottage cheese, jokingly calling it one of his favourite cheeses. Her prompt response is to remind him that it’s not actually cheese but a curd.

That might seem like an awkward deflection at first glance, but the moment is significant for multiple reasons. For one, it kick-starts the protagonist’s personal journey towards human connection. It is also, in a slight detriment, one of the very few things we ever truly learn about this character throughout the course of the film. Most of all, though, it signifies the core theme of transparency, a trait that Fran must eventually learn to hone if she is to break free of her titular daydreams that control her mood and actions in reality. They all amount to a gentle and unshowy feature that isn’t always easy to connect with, but offers a compassionate look at what it is to feel truly isolated.

For context, Sometimes I Think About Dying – loosely adapted from the short film of the same name by Stefanie Abel Horowitz, which itself is even more liberally based on the play Killers by Kevin Armento, both of whom also co-write this film with the short’s star Katy Wright-Mead – introduces Ridley’s Fran as a deeply withdrawn person. Neither lively in any sense of the phrase, nor overtly suicidal (aside from the frequent surreal fantasies she has about being very much not alive), Fran leads a quiet and lonely life in her small apartment, within an overcast portside town in Oregon. She is often the first person to arrive at her job in the aforementioned office, where she keeps her head down in work while others freely socialise, before retreating home to make herself a cottage cheese dinner and then go right back to her morbid daydreaming.

It is the arrival of Marheje’s Robert, replacing retiree Carol (Marcia DeBonis) at the desk just opposite Fran’s, that prompts a sudden curiosity to try and interact with her new colleague. Trips to the cinema, dinner dates at a local diner, and even a murder-mystery party with friends are suddenly all on the cards for Fran, but all the while her closed-off state provides a barrier for Robert to truly get to know her, and for her to maybe, truly open up about her unsustainable thoughts of death.

As with many films where the main character suffers from some kind of depression, Sometimes I Think About Dying adopts a moody aesthetic that matches the protagonist’s bleak interior. Director Lambert creates a picturesque landscape with cinematographer Dustin Lane that appears to revel in its mundanity, with everything from fallen apples in the street to shots of empty beaches to the very office that Fran works in, all being given an intentionally bland colour palette where almost nothing visually stands out. The only time we see any visual liveliness is, ironically enough, whenever we witness her thoughts of death, which are staged and shot like they’re straight out of an artsy Lars Von Trier film, in a clear statement by the director that this is truly the only thrill that this character seems to get out of her otherwise unfulfilling existence.

Until, of course, she starts thinking about Robert instead. He, by slight contrast, is a friendly guy who is keen to know his new colleague despite her repeated rebuffs whenever he tries to find out more information about his new friend. To a point, the viewer shares that frustration, as the film similarly does not allow much insight as to how or why she is so withdrawn, therefore making it more difficult to understand what she may be going through. Not even her daydreams give much of an indication about who she once might have been, for there is little else revealed about her (other than maybe her love for cottage cheese) that explains her current state, or at least enough to justify her morbid thoughts.

Of course, as with anyone that may suffer from similar mental illnesses, depression seldom needs a reason for being, and it’s likely that this is simply the case with Fran too. The fact remains, however, that this character is largely a blank slate that you’re often left struggling to connect with as much as Robert is with her.

This is despite a strong lead turn by Daisy Ridley, who comfortably embodies Fran’s emotionless state of mind as she blends into the background with impeccable ease, but when she is placed front and centre, the actor (who is also a producer on the film) is magnetic in her understated screen presence. She conveys the character’s reserved nature through nerved body language and minimal dialogue, in a fascinatingly unshowy turn that is free of big emotion and much more focused on what might be being said underneath it all, even if the writing doesn’t always make it clear. Ridley also has some sweet moments with her likeable co-star Dave Merheje, and while their characters’ ultimate chemistry is understandably strained, the actors manage to generate enough sympathy together as they attempt to push past their differences and try to be more transparent with one another.

Transparency, in the end, is what Sometimes I Think About Dying tries to promote as a soothing treatment for those with similar issues. Being open and honest with people about your inner thoughts can be more helpful than you may think – as someone diagnosed with mild depression, I’ve certainly learned this the hard way – and even if the film surrounding such a message is perhaps too subtle to where it’s near subliminal, it’s a powerful thing to take away from it.

In addition to the fact that, yes, cottage cheese is a curd and not actual cheese.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Sometimes I Think About Dying is a gently moody depiction of the main character’s morbid sense of depression, which is performed by a magnetic Daisy Ridley, though a further lack of insight into the protagonist herself can make it a slightly blank emotional experience.

Three out of five stars

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