The title Sometimes I Think About Dying doesn’t necessarily suggest a understated, sweet movie — especially when the main character does constantly fantasize about her own death. But for all its morbidness, Rachel Lambert’s new film is a gentle reverie about human connection. It’s a little haunting, but in a way that’s pensive and introspective instead of actually chilling.
Sometimes I Think About Dying is really about one woman struggling to connect with other people. Based on a play by Kevin Armento, and written by Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, and Katy Wright-Mead, it’s a melancholy ode to loneliness and the internal hurdles that socially anxious people face when they attempt to fit in with the world around them.
[Ed. note: This review contains some slight setup spoilers for Sometimes I Think About Dying.]
Daisy Ridley, the once and future center of modern Star Wars movies, stars as Fran, an introverted office worker who blissfully daydreams about her own death. Not in an actively suicidal way, but in a meditative, almost calming manner. Her reveries rarely show the process of dying: Instead, they revolve around her peacefully preserved cadaver. She lives in her own little world, observing the people around her and never daring to break into their bubbles, until a new coworker, Robert (Dave Merheje) joins her office. His friendly nature intrigues Fran, and slowly but surely, she starts to open up, though her fear keeps her at a distance. We never really learn whether there’s a specific root cause behind her anxiety, but what’s important is that it’s overwhelming enough to control most of her life.
For the first chunk of the movie, Fran is basically silent. The world around her buzzes on, and all she does is watch. The ambient noise of the office and small talk around her is almost hypnotic, droning on as she hovers around the edges of interactions. Ridley does a remarkable job of capturing Fran’s dueling hesitation and longing in her facial expressions alone. She wants to be part of this world of friendships and other people, but something holds her back. Instead of interacting with her co-workers, she thinks about death.
Fran’s macabre daydreams are hauntingly beautiful. Lambert frames them with sweet-sounding orchestral scores, and the settings Fran imagines for her dead body are weirdly inviting. A moss-covered forest floor, for instance, looks soft and lush, with sunlight streaming down through the fog, even with Fran’s cold corpse staring lifelessly ahead. When Fran snaps out of these grisly reveries, back into her office day, it’s jarring. It really cements her as someone who feels so isolated from the people around her that she finds more comfort in imagining her own absence from the world.
Juxtaposed against her easily chatting co-workers, it’s easy to see how disconnected Fran feels. That all changes when Robert comes into play. It’s not that her other co-workers were unfriendly, but something about Robert pushes Fran to open up a bit more, say yes to social plans, and continue conversations that she’d otherwise shrug off. There’s a bit of a romantic attraction there, but mostly, she’s just motivated by an underlying desire for connection. She still doesn’t say much, but the more people she actually interacts with, the more she slowly realizes that maybe everyone around her is also putting on a front of some sort to protect themselves.
Not much happens in Sometimes I Think About Dying, but that’s the point of the movie. Even the smallest thing, like Fran mustering up the courage to say goodbye to someone after work, is given huge weight. The movie lingers on the mundane, using it to paint a thorough portrait of who she is, without having her say or act much. The steps she takes to help overcome her social anxiety might seem small, but they’re all hurdles to her. It’s a movie made up of quiet moments: pauses in conversation, lingering glances, and outstretched hands. Lambert emphasizes the importance of these small interactions, and the ways they build up to connections. It’s a quiet story that aches in the best sort of way.
Sometimes I Think About Dying is out in theaters now.