SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING. Melancholic Romantic Comedy Starring Daisy Ridley [REVIEW]

Lambert’s film will find its most faithful, most devoted viewers among those who break a sweat at the thought of making a phone call to customer service.

Jan Brzozowski

19 November 2023

Fran (Daisy Ridley) is not, euphemistically speaking, the most charismatic heroine in the history of cinema. She hardly ever speaks unprompted, keeping all feelings and thoughts to herself. She performs office duties with a solemn expression, spending most of her time looking out the window, where there is a view of a gigantic port crane. Fran daydreams about the machine lifting her into the air with a rope wrapped around her neck. She envisions her lifeless body peacefully lying in the middle of a forest or on the beach. Just as the film’s title suggests, the protagonist sometimes thinks about dying – but that doesn’t mean she actually wants to die. It’s just that life – or at least the life she leads – doesn’t have much to offer her. The situation changes when a new employee, Robert (Dave Merheje), is hired in the office.

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” openly uses the romantic comedy scheme, telling the story of two people between whom a deeper emotional relationship begins to develop. However, it deconstructs these schemes both formally and narratively. The main theme here is not love but the struggle with character limitations and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Slowly opening up to the world through contact with another person.

Rachel Lambert’s film evokes associations not only with the memorable film “On Body and Soul” by Ildikó Enyedi but also with “Memory” by Michel Franco – probably the best, because the most subdued title in the Mexican director’s oeuvre. The creator of “New Order” also used the tropes of romantic comedy, underlying the characters’ relationship with what is characteristic for him: illness, violence, and trauma. Lambert and her co-writer Stefanie Abel Horowitz (the author of the short film basis for “Sometimes I Think About Dying”) are much more sensitive to their characters, although the film’s cool poetics could suggest something completely different. The director draws heavily from the outstanding achievements of the Greek New Wave – using a static camera and a well-thought-out, painfully precise composition of frames to portray the everyday life of an alienated individual functioning on the margins of local society. The absolute formal precision reflects the ordered life of the protagonist. However, the calm, melancholic atmosphere makes “Sometimes I Think About Dying” much closer to Christos Nikou’s “Apples” than any of Yorgos Lanthimos’s early films.

The atmosphere accompanying the screening is also composed of subtle humor, largely based on highlighting the awkwardness in interpersonal relationships. The exchange of messages on the office slack is a small comedic gem and an important element in the context of Fran and Robert’s interactions. Technological mediation adds courage to the protagonist – when it comes to making new connections for shy individuals, the value of online communicators is truly invaluable. The script by Lambert and Horowitz is a treasure trove of small gags, with the office space and its inhabitants – killing small-town boredom with unproductive chatter. The paramount point of reference here is, of course, the American “The Office”: the extended scene welcoming the new employee – adorned with a mandatory meeting where everyone has to share their favorite dish – could easily find its place in one of the episodes of the cult series.

Certainly, Daisy Ridley could not find herself there. The performance of the American actress is a denial of sitcom exaggeration. It is an extremely restrained role – built on fleeting glances, slight grimaces, and occasional half-words. The sensitivity hidden behind shyness, until the last, moving scene, is not verbalized: the only thing we have at our disposal earlier is the enigmatic face of the character and the poetic visualizations of her depressive visions. Ridley’s role – and it is a compliment – sometimes resembles the best, “silent” performances of Ryan Gosling. In both cases, it’s essentially the same thing: craftsmanship self-awareness. Realizing the limitations of one’s own expression, and then turning a potential flaw into an individual asset. Gosling did it flawlessly when he started choosing interesting but less flashy roles – with Refn, Villeneuve, or Cianfrance. I wish Ridley the same: more projects like “Sometimes I Think About Dying” and less “Star Wars” in her filmography.

Lambert’s film will find its most faithful, most devoted viewers among those who break a sweat at the thought of making a phone call to customer service. In school wallflowers, office outsiders, and life drifters. Fran is their screen representation. At the same time, it is cinematic evidence that in the hard struggle with social anxieties, every tiny step counts. Buying donuts for work colleagues becomes, heroically – and I write this without a hint of irony – breaking internal barriers. Sometimes the right impulse – for example, encountering the right person on our path – turns out to be decisive. A few friendly conversations and jointly watched movies are enough for Fran to grasp the fundamental truth: in life, it’s worth thinking about things other than just dying.

Janek Brzozowski

Jan Brzozowski

Permanently sleep-deprived, as he absorbs either westerns or new adventure cinema at night. A big fan of the acting skills of James Dean and Jimmy Stewart, and the beauty of Ryan Gosling and Elle Fanning. He is also interested in American and French literature, as well as soccer.

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