In the dull, inert drama Sometimes I Think About Dying, Daisy Ridley, the British-born actress who displayed much more animation, personality and range in the 2015 Star Wars film The Force Awakens, tries a serious change of pace so solemn you can hardly find a pulse. This time, she plays a boring young office worker named Fran who searches for an identity for an hour and a half without a shred of success. Thanks to sluggish direction by Rachel Lambert and a screenplay by three entire people who fail to display the focused writing talent of even one, this is a slogfest from beginning to end. The only test of any action will be determined by how fast you can get to the door marked “Exit”.
SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING ★ (1/4 stars)
Despite the placid beauty of coastal Oregon, where Fran lives, she finds nothing of any interest to relieve her state of empty, unfulfilled depression. Awkward and undefined, she rises each morning, eats the same microwaved breakfast, and walks into her job to assume the same daily position at her faceless computer. It is never clear what she does in the office, but it’s always the same routine, replete with paper clips and filing cabinets. At night, she pours a glass of wine and puts a dreary dinner in the food processor. At 10:19 she turns the light out. Mostly, she just stares moodily at the window, wondering perhaps what’s going on outside in the real world. Sometimes she stares blankly at the floor. Her expression, which never changes, is a look of terminal despair. She demonstrates no sign of interest in anything except cottage cheese and says almost nothing in sentences of more than five words, communicating with co-workers through blunt texts, but as the title suggests, “sometimes she thinks about dying.”
42 minutes into the film, Fran shares a piece of pie with Robert (Dave Merheje), a banal, balding, and overweight new employee who is as tediously tiresome as she is. It’s not clear what he does, either, but at least he likes old movies. He takes her to see one, about which she has no opinion, followed by a meal which she does not enjoy because the restaurant does not serve cottage cheese. Aha! Anticipation rises. A possible romance blooms. But nothing happens to guarantee any promise of emotional progress. It’s a movie about the relentless, paralyzing lives of the kind of working-class people the great writer Paddy Chayefsky used to bring brilliantly to life in plays and films such as Marty, Middle of the Night, The Bachelor Party and The Catered Affair—works of social realism that reveal deep elements of humanity in the world of common folk like the girl Daisy Ridley valiantly tries to play in Sometimes I Think About Dying. She works hard to find the sympathetic dimensions in Fran, but few are developed in a movie as blank as a sponged-down blackboard in an empty classroom. Nothing likely to inspire joy, pleasure or surprise.
It all leads up to Fran’s vain attempt to connect with Robert one last time. “Do you wish you could unknow me?” she asks. “I don’t know you,” is the answer. Neither do I, but I do know a clumsy, clueless and colossal bore when I see one.