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“Sometimes I Think About Dying” is a warmly observed film about loneliness

Daisy Ridley shines in a drab seaside town.

By Rob Hunter Published January 25, 2023

This article is part of our coverage of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Follow us as we check out the films and filmmakers performing at the first festival of the new year. In this entry, Rob Hunter reviews Rachel Lambert’s “Sometimes I Think About Dying.”

Don’t tell my mother, but we’ve all thought about dying at some point. Imagine how it would happen, imagine how we would look, think how our friends and family would react. It’s less of a desire and more of a curiosity, something that engages our brains during the doldrums of the day or night. Sometimes I think about dying introduces viewers to a character who does just that, but what she does next with her life makes for a story worth telling.

“I’m Fran, I like cottage cheese,” says Fran (Daisy Ridley) during a work meeting that brought everyone to the small office’s newest employee, Robert (David Merheje). Fran is the quiet one at work and gets her work done while the white noise of colleagues banter, technical discussions and coffee machines floats through the air. Work is half of her daily routine, followed by a walk home, some wine and dinner, and sleep before waking up to do it all again. A quick exchange with Robert that makes him smile makes Fran discover something new, wanting to change gears and step out of her comfort zone. Of course, there are sometimes worlds between the idea and the implementation.

Sometimes I think about dying isn’t the first film to explore the life of an introvert, but it finds its own voice by keeping things as grounded and quiet as Fran herself. Director Rachel Lambert and the writers of the film (Stephanie Abel Horowitz, Kevin Armentoand Katy Wright-Mead) have created a warmly observational character piece here that is as comfortable with its easy laugh as it is with an honest sadness. The struggle to move beyond our safe little box is real, and the film acknowledges this through small steps and missteps alike.

Ridley is the heart and soul of the film, building a character who is never extreme or overdone in her timid nature. She talks and interacts, but it’s quiet and with one eye always on the lookout for the exit. Saying yes to a date of sorts with Robert exposes herself to new worlds – nothing overwhelming, just a movie, dinner, a crime party with new people – and Ridley makes sure we see the dichotomy between Fran’s pleasure and her struggle . As the latter begins to triumph, being overwhelmed by it all, no overly dramatic beat or performance follows. It’s instead someone who wants something that might be out of their reach, and there’s a certain heartache there.

The film isn’t quite the downer the last line might suggest, however, because Sometimes I think about dying is as hopeful as we are about Fran’s future. There are obstacles in her path, namely her own head, but the desire for change, for something new and for human connection is a powerful thing. Soon, the fantastical images in her head of her bug-ridden corpse in a forest have something else in their place – a smile that guides her and promises a different outcome.

Lambert’s film captures the mundane, soul-sapping nature of office life – and sometimes life itself – from its opening act. We’re with Fran the entire time, but we don’t even hear her speak for the first ten minutes, as we’re instead inundated with office chitchat that only exists to break the silence. Your peers are a mix of familiar and new faces with supporting turns Mega designer, Parvesh Cheenaand a great one Marcia DeBonis as a boisterous personality retiring with plans for a grand cruise.

Sometimes I think about dying takes place in a small coastal town in Oregon (and was filmed in Astoria, OR) and the environment plays an equally important role here. It’s gray and cold outside – not enough to hide the beauty of the ocean, trees and landscape, but enough to keep anyone from spending too much time outside admiring it all. Lambert and cameraman Dustin Lane Use it well as a shortcut to the ease with which we shut ourselves off from others. It’s just so much easier to fall asleep on your own ground than going out in the cold on a date with the stranger.

The film wisely avoids throwing Fran into a deep depression or putting a name to her situation. She’s just lonely, both in her own decisions and in her situations, and while Robert may not be the cure for her ailments – nobody ever is – the time spent outside of her own head is certainly a step in the right direction. Sometimes I think about dying offers this simple observation with a dash of humor and hope, and it’s a recipe we could all benefit from.

Follow all of our coverage of the Sundance Film Festival here.

Related topics: Sun Dance

Rob Hunter was writing for Film School Rejects before you were born, which is odd considering he’s so damn young. He’s our chief film critic and associate editor and lists Broadcast News as his all-time favorite film. Feel free to say hello if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.

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