When a senior colleague breaks down in tears at the small office retirement party, Fran (Daisy Ridley) even blinks in desperation to leave. She takes her piece of cake in the plate and quietly walks out of the room. Fran creates this distance from herself and the world on purpose, not because she is left out, far from it. As Some I Think About Dying will reveal, antisocial and introverted Fran is caught up in her own suspicions of belonging. She is someone who tries to feel something for a change.
Directed by Rachel Lambert, Some I Think About Dying is based on Stefanie Abel Horowitz’s 2019 short of the same name, which was in turn based on Kevin Armentobegins’ play Killers. It opens with meditative shots of the Oregon coast resort town. Some apples that have clogged the sewer gate on the street, a flock of pigeons in front of a yard and the blades of grass that sway in the wind. These are small, languid moments of beauty that occur in Fran’s immediate surroundings, but she doesn’t really appreciate them.
Sometimes I Think About Dying has been wisely expanded into a feature film story by Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Kevin Armento, and Katy Wright. She wakes up, gets ready and goes to work, where she glues herself to her cubicle. Then she comes home, plays sudoku, turns on the microwave and goes to sleep early. Her gaggle of fun-loving co-workers go about in ways she can’t get used to. At the end of the day, barely speaking a word, Fran now thinks about death. She would like to know what it would feel like not to exist.
Things change when a new colleague arrives in the form of cinephile Robert (Dave Merheje), who grows to like Fran more and more. Still, talking to Fran is an exercise in self-control for Robert, as he is the one who talks and ends up sharing too much. When Fran realizes over dinner that Robert is seeking answers about her, she quickly changes the subject and apologizes for the point of focus.
The beauty of Some I Think About Dying lies in its detachment – it never forces reasons to expand on Fran’s backstory or justify her actions. What happened to her that she is so reserved and withdrawn? Where’s her family? What is she hiding? These questions are of little concern to Lambert, as she treats female isolation and Fran’s sense of reality with quiet empathy. Dustin Lane’s cinematography often captures the body from odd angles, reflecting the haunting disconnection from the immediate environment. As the lingering gaze continues, it becomes clear that it is as much about a deeply sympathetic view of mental health and isolation as it is about the desire to be understood.
Daisy Ridley plays Fran with sensitivity and poise, upping the drama on several levels. When Fran finally breaks into a smile or is brave enough to actively ask about something, it’s a monumental sense of relief, and the actor makes it all work beautifully. Her scenes with Robert, played gracefully by Merheje, are sure to make you root. At the end, Sometimes I Think About Dying may seem a little too shy to help our Fran get a better sense of herself, but it rewards your attention with a subtly realized finale. It takes a while to see the version of ourselves from the point of view of those who love us. But when it happens, the world becomes a better place to live in. You don’t necessarily have to change to notice it, just a hug is enough. It is not just the thought of death, but the will to live that a person needs to see a new day.