'Sometimes I Think About Dying' Review
January 26, 2023
Sometimes I Think About Dying premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Oscilloscope will release the film in theaters on an undisclosed date.
Those that have worked in an office setting will find plenty to admire and shudder about in Sometimes I Think About Dying, director Rachel Lambert’s adaptation of the 2019 short film of the same name. Lambert essentially sticks a camera within a small-sized office on the Oregon coast, acting as a fly on the wall as a group of strangers fills their ho-hum days with small talk and routine socializing.
Except there’s one person in the office who seems incapable of engaging in that sort of mindless thing. Fran (Daisy Ridley), always dressed in plain clothes and found sitting at her desk adjusting spreadsheets, can go for days without talking to anyone. This prolonged silence isn’t because she dislikes her coworkers, but more of a defense mechanism to keep people from finding out what’s underneath. Things change suddenly when a new employee, Robert, comes to town. He seems to be a translator between Fran and the rest of the world, slowly pulling her out of her shell.
One of the things revealed early on comes from the name of the film, which is that Fran sometimes drifts off into space during the day. But she doesn’t fantasize about romantic endeavors or if they forget to turn the stove off. No, she thinks about all the different ways she could die, such as hanging from the large crane outside her office window or being consumed by insects in the nearby forest.
Lambert, collaborating with cinematographer Dustin Lane and production designer Robert Brekco, stages these fantasies with surreal beauty. They may only be brief glimpses, but they stick with you long after. Lane’s camera never moves, often keeping the background out of focus as Fran eavesdrops on her coworkers. These moments can go on for extended periods, acting as a way to slowly enter the world of Fran. But it also feels like there’s not a ton on the page like it needs to be stretched in order to fit within the required feature runtime.
Ridley does deliver one of her best performances as Fran, ditching the movie star swagger of the Star Wars films in favor of an extremely stripped-down inhabitation of a character. She speaks maybe five lines within the first thirty minutes, yet you’re endlessly fascinated with learning more about her. It is unfortunate later on when those simple questions aren’t answered, leaving you just as unsatisfied as when you started.
Sometimes I Think About Dying is a small movie with a small scope, buoyed by some intriguing visuals and a standout performance from an actress who looks ready to take on this new side of her career. As a twelve-minute short film, it’s a bit too short. And as a ninety-minute feature film, it's a bit too long. Somewhere out there is a perfect 45-60 minute version of this story. But it’s not here right now, which is a shame.