Sundance 2023 Review: Sometimes I Think About Dying

by Andrew Parker

Disappointing, but well made, Sometimes I Think About Dying is built around a solid concept that’s never satisfyingly explored. It looks wonderful, the performances are top notch, and there are a few lovely moments of tenderness and understanding, but everything else about this look at depression and ennui is too thin to resonate.

Daisy Ridley stars as Fran, an office drone living in small town along the Oregon coast. She dutifully goes into work every day, but refuses to socialize or participate in small talk. When Fran goes home at the end of the night, she spends some time dreaming about being a corpse peacefully composing in the middle of the woods. A slight spark of life comes in the form of the new guy in the office, Robert (Dave Merheje), a movie nerd that also isn’t the biggest social butterfly. Robert develops a crush on Fran, and they develop a friendship, but a more romantic relationship will likely be hard for her.

Sometimes I Think About Dying is one of those film where it’s obvious that this was based on a previously existing short, with the creators of that 2019 effort providing the screenplay and director Rachel Lambert (In the Radiant City) taking over directorial duties. In a smaller package, Sometimes I Think About Dying could work, but at feature length, there’s a lot of unnecessary padding for a film that’s deliberately and staunchly vague as both a narrative and aesthetic choice.

By about the halfway point, one hopes there’s more to Sometimes I Think About Dying than trying to unravel what’s wrong with Fran, and frustratingly there turns out to be even less than that by the end. It’s a very passive and forceless film that squanders a lot of great elements, particularly Ridley’s committed performance and the much needed warmth Brough to the project by Merheje. The score is lovely, the cinematography and production design make creative use of the frame, and Lambert assuredly knows her way around an awkward pause, but there’s nothing else here of note.

Instead of feeling any sort of emotional stirrings, Sometimes I Think About Dying Ends up being a reflection of its protagonist in all the wrong ways. It’s cold, alienating, and underdeveloped.

Sometimes I Think About Dying screened as part of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

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