Her isolation and anxiety lingers for the first 25 minutes almost to the point of boredom, until new co-worker Robert (Dave Merheje) starts texting her, making jokes, chatting and generally charming. Fran doesn’t know how to react. All of her responses show her awkwardness in social situations. As Robert persists and slowly pushes Fran into a conversation place, they begin to form a friendship that Fran struggles to understand or navigate.
Daisy Ridley is sublime and endlessly charming in this role. So much so that you wonder why we don’t see her a lot more in movies (and I hope this movie also reminds other filmmakers and execs of this same question). She does an incredible job expressing the pain and barriers that social anxiety entails. As attempts to break through these barriers can often result in difficult times or crossing the line. Dave Merheje’s outgoing charm provides us with a source of warmth to contrast with Fran’s coldness with whom we spend most of the film.
Director Rachel Lambert (working from a screenplay by Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz and Katy Wright-Mead) does an incredible job creating a sense of longing and distance as we observe the lives of the people around Fran. On the surface, the subjects of your conversations, discussions, and concerns seem trite, trivial, or even ridiculous. They look like a less funny version of The office. But behind the conversations about monitor cables and office supplies, Rachel tells us what it’s like to be Fran-witnessing life around her without the ability to engage. To be forever trapped in the distance.
And therein lies my main concern with the film – much of that pain and struggle is kept at an emotional distance from us. Social anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and depression often manifest themselves in quiet, outwardly silent moments. Internally, these are powerful forces and emotions that make everyday life actions sometimes extremely difficult and challenging. And while we see Fran’s outer struggle, the glimpses we get of her inner turmoil are fleeting and seem distant. Fran never seems to want anything in life. Though suffering as she may be, she never seems to crave what she doesn’t have. She just watches. She doesn’t feel like she risks anything in her actions. She doesn’t seem to want to make a change in her life or turn around the world she’s trapped in. So while her pain from struggles is real (especially to those who understand them in their own lives), Fran is kept at arm’s length. us, the audience, in a way that steals some of the emotional complexity and power that lies under the skin of Daisy Ridley’s performance and script.
Quiet, careful and measured, Sometimes I think about dying gives us a strong performance by a woman trapped in the tranquil space her anxiety has created for her — a space I wish I’d seen more of.
Upcoming Sundance Film Festival Screenings Sometimes I think about dying: Friday, January 27, 2023 at 3:15 pm MST at the Eccles Theater, Park City.
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