Sometimes I Think About Dying
by Hope Madden
Sometimes I Think About Dying feels like the farthest from Star Wars an actor can go. And I like Star Wars, but still, I mean that as a good thing.
Rather than taking place in a galaxy far, far away, director Rachel Lambert’s film takes place in a set of cubicles inside an office near the ocean of a small Washington town. Daisy Ridley (who also produces) plays Fran. Fran likes spreadsheets, almost never talks, and sometimes she thinks about dying.
That is, until Robert (Dave Merheje) takes the cubicle recently vacated by Carol (Marcia DeBonis), who retired and went on a cruise. Robert’s outgoing, as all of Fran’s office mates seem to be, but there is one difference. Robert realizes Fran exists. And now suddenly, as she sits alone in her very modest apartment after eating a microwaved meal of meat patty covered in cottage cheese, Fran no longer thinks about dying. She thinks about Robert.
Lambert’s film benefits immeasurably from an incredibly lived-in, authentic environment. Though each character has its charm, each one also feels apiece of this world. Sometimes I Think About Dying doesn’t satirize the world of the cubicle as The Office or Office Space. It just understands it–recognizes the banality and camaraderie and sparks of humanity and humor.
What Lambert and Ridley mine beautifully is the difficulty people face when they’re trying desperately to be normal, and the only way they can manage is to be utterly invisible. The longing that comes to life in Fran’s face, her slow thaw to tenderness, vulnerability, brittleness, and panic testifies to Ridley’s versatility.
The full ensemble is a delight, but Merheje is particularly perfect in this role. His own insecurity and loneliness bubble to the surface as he tries and fails to figure Fran out and just have a normal relationship.
Working from a script by Stefanie Abel Horowitz (which she adapts from her acclaimed short), Kevin Armento, and Katy Wright-Mead, Lambert shies away from the morbid or fantastical that exists in the tale. It exists, but it’s accepted lightly in a film that is quiet. It sneaks up on you, like death or like love. And it shows an impressive, introspective side of Ridley.