Review: ‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’ (2024), starring Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena and Marcia DeBonis

January 26, 2024

by Carla Hay

Daisy Ridley in “Sometimes I Think About Dying” (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” (2024)

Directed by Rachel Lambert

Culture Representation: Taking place in Oregon, the dramatic film “Sometimes I Thing About Dying” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A very introverted woman with an almost non-existent social life has to decide how much she will open herself up to love when a co-worker begins courting her.

Culture Audience: “Sometimes I Think About Dying” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Daisy Ridley and low-key, independent films that have observations about loneliness and personality disorders.

Dave Merheje and Daisy Ridley in “Sometimes I Think About Dying” (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” is a unique portrait of social anxiety and depression. This quiet and slow-paced drama won’t appeal to everyone. However, viewers with the patience to watch the entire movie will see an interesting awakening in the painfully shy protagonist, who has to learn to get out of her head and experience more of life.

Directed by Rachel Lambert, “Sometimes I Think About Dying” is based on the 2019 short film of the same name. Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Kevin Armento and Katy Wright-Mead wrote the screenplays for both movies, but Horowitz directed the short film. The feature-length version of “Sometimes I Think About Dying” had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The movie was filmed in Oregon and the city of Longview, Washington.

In the feature-length “Sometimes I Think About Dying” (which takes place in an unnamed city in Oregon), the central character is Fran Larsen (played by Daisy Ridley), a depressed introvert whose life is a bland routine. Fran, who is in her late 20s, works at her office for a small business called CB Port Authority. Fran does administrative work (whatever she does in her job, she uses a lot of spreadsheets) in a non-descript cubicle. There are less than 15 people who work in this office. After her work shift, Fran usually just goes home to her modest house and doesn’t communicate with anyone.

Fran has a secret interior life where she thinks about scenarios in which she is dying or is already dead. The movie is punctuated with glimpses of these morbid fantasies. In one scenario, a snake is on the floor in the office, with Fran’s back to the snake, as if she’s unaware that the snake could pounce at any moment. In another scenario, Fran is a corpse on a beach. In another scenario, she’s dead in a wooded area.

Fran is very shy and keeps mostly to herself at work. In the beginning of the movie, a co-worker named Carol (played by Marcia DeBonis) is retiring, so the co-workers have gathered in the break room for Carol’s going-away party. Carol gives away some of her office supplies and says in a gloating voice, “I’m going on a cruise!” In a retirement greeting card signed by all the co-workers, Fran’s written message inside the card is a very basic “Happy retirement.”

Other people who work in the office are cheerful supervisor Isobel (played by Megan Stalter), nerdy Sean (played by Sean Tarjyoto), eccentric Doug (played by Jeb Berrier), self-assured Garrett (played by Parvesh Cheena) and eager intern Sophie (played by Brittany O’Grady). After Carol now longer works at the company, the dynamics in the office change with the arrival of Robert (played by Dave Merheje), who is Carol’s replacement.

Robert, who is in his late 30s or early 40s, seems to be almost immediately attracted to Fran, who is slow to pick up the social cues that Robert wants to start a conversation to get to know her better. In text messages, Robert asks Fran some questions about office supplies. He confesses that he’s never had a job before. Most people would be curious to know why, but Fran doesn’t ask.

Eventually, Robert establishes a little bit of rapport with Fran when they find out that they both like cottage cheese. Fran shows she can be nitpicky when she corrects Robert and says that cottage cheese is technically not cheese. “It’s a curd. I Googled it,” she states matter-of-factly.

Robert asks Fran out on a date. She says yes. Robert and Fran see a movie and then have dinner on this first date. Over dinner at a restaurant, Robert says he’s a big fan of movies, and he liked the film that they saw. Fran admits she didn’t like the film.

The waitress who serves them at the restaurant is named Amelia. She invites Robert and Fran to a small get-together that she has on Saturdays. It turns out to be a murder mystery game, which is somewhat ironic because Fran spends a lot of time thinking about herself dying in gruesome ways.

It’s very difficult for Fran to open up about herself to anyone. The most that she will tell Robert is that she grew up in Hawaii, she likes to cook, and she’s never been in love. Meanwhile, Robert tells her that he’s been divorced twice and that he hasn’t figured out marriage yet.

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” doesn’t have a big, sweeping plot. There are several scenes in the movie that show how isolated Fran is when she’s at home. And even when she’s with people (such as in her office job), she still seems very alone because she’s lost in her thoughts and not sociable. She’s not rude, but she doesn’t seek out people’s company, and she rarely initiates conversations with other people.

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” does not follow a predictable formula that’s usually in movies about lonely single people, so this film will simply be too boring for some viewers. However, Ridley gives a very good depiction of how people who feel invisible (by choice or by circumstance) often behave. This is not a typical story where someone is going to swoop in and “rescue” Fran from her social anxiety. Instead, the movie excels at showing in nuanced ways how human connections can be terrifying to people who are also afraid to confront their own insecurities.

Oscilloscope Laboratories released “Sometimes I Think About Dying” in select U.S. cinemas on January 26, 2024.

Review: ‘The Inventor’ (2023), starring the voices of Stephen Fry, Daisy Ridley, Marion Cotillard, Gauthier Battoue and Matt Berry

December 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

King Francis I (voiced by Gauthier Battoue), Leonardo Da Vinci (voiced by Stephen Fry), Princess Marguerite (voiced by Daisy Ridley) and Louise de Savoy (voiced by Marion Cotillard) in “The Inventor” (Photo courtesy of Curiosity Studio/Blue Fox Entertainment)

“The Inventor” (2023)

Directed by Jim Capobianco; co-directed by Pierre-Luc Granjon

Culture Representation: Taking place in Italy and in France, in the 1500s, the animated film “The Inventor” features a cast of all-white cast characters representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.

Culture Clash: Renowned artist Leonardo Da Vinci tries to find acceptance as an inventor at a time when science and scientific inventions were considered religious blasphemy. 

Culture Audience: “The Inventor” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching a pleasantly simple history-based animated movie that uses stop-motion and 2-D animation.

King Francis I (voiced by Gauthier Battoue) in “The Inventor” (Photo courtesy of Curiosity Studio/Blue Fox Entertainment)

“The Inventor” doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in animation, but it’s a charming option for viewers who want to see an adventure story about Leonardo da Vinci. The movie has positive messages about reaching for our best potential. The visuals (a combination of stop-motion animation and 2-D animation) are the opposite of slick and overly intricate, giving the movie a traditional look that is o. The voice performances are also well-cast.

Directed by Jim Capobianco and co-directed by Pierre-Luc Granjon, “The Inventor” takes place in the 1500s. The movie begins in 1516 in the Italian capital of Rome, where famous painter Leonardo DaVinci (voiced by Stephen Fry) shows fellow painter Francesco Melzi (voiced by Angelino Sandri) his new invention: a telescope. Leonardo wants more out of his life than just being known as an artist. He also wants to be known as a polymath: someone who has many different skills.

Leonardo has an avid interest in science. However, Pope Leo X (voiced by Matt Berry) thinks science is religious blasphemy. The pope wants Leonardo to stick to only painting chapels and doing other paintings.. Leonardo resists this command.

As a compromise, Pope Leo X tells Leonardo: “I command that you create a bauble, a gift that will cement the peace between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of France. If you are successful, I shall allow you to continue your studies. However, [if you fail], you will find you and your curiosity on the heretics’ pile.

It just so happens that in France, King Francis I (voiced by Gauthier Battoue) has invited Leonard to become France’s first person to be a combination architect/painter/engineer for the royal court. Leonardo is introduced to King Francis’ mother Louise de Savoy (voiced by Marion Cotillard) and King Francis’ sister Marguerite (voiced by Daisy Ridley), who is often the target of Francis’ sexist attitude. The king’s architect Il Boccador (voiced by Max Baumgarten) and the king’s engineer Pierre Nepveu (voiced by Natalie Palamides) greatly admire Leonardo and his vision for creating canals, gallerias and gardens.

However, King Francis thinks the plans are too expensive and complicated. When Marguerite says that Leonardo’s ideas are great, King Francis is dismissive when he tells her: “If only you were permitted to wear britches, you’d be every bit my equal.” Marguerite isn’t the type to accept this insult and doesn’t hesitate to try to prove her brother Francis wrong.

Meanwhile, “The Inventor” has some debate about faith versus science, and if they can co-exist in the same outlook on life. Marguerite says to Leonardo: “Faith makes all things possible. Don’t you agree?”

Leonardo replies, “All I know is that blind faith cannot prove the existence of the soul. Using the power of reason, however, observation, and experiment, I endeavor to find that soul … And when I find this immortal soul, I hope people share its answers about life.”

All of this existential talk makes “The Inventor” an animated film that’s geared to people who are at least 8 years old. Children young than 8 will enjoy the visuals but might not fully understand the messages behind the film. Overall, “The Inventor” is enjoyable for what it is but it’s not a classic film that will influence generations of viewers.

Blue Fox Entertainment released “The Inventor” in U.S. cinemas on September 15, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on November 7, 2023.

Review: ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter,’ starring Daisy Ridley, Ben Mendelsohn, Garrett Hedlund, Caren Pistorius, Brooklynn Prince and Gil Birmingham

November 22, 2023

by Carla Hay

Daisy Ridley in “The Marsh King’s Daughter” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)

“The Marsh King’s Daughter”

Directed by Neil Burger

Culture Representation: Taking place in Michigan, in 2002 and in 2022, the dramatic film “The Marsh King’s Daughter” (based on the 2017 novel of the same name) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and one Native American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Twenty years after her father was imprisoned for kidnapping her mother, a 30-year-old woman, who has tried to erase him from her life, finds out that her past has come back to haunt her when he breaks out of prison captivity to track her down.

Culture Audience: “The Marsh King’s Daughter” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching formulaic and ridiculous “women in peril” dramas.

Gil Birmingham and Daisy Ridley in “The Marsh King’s Daughter” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)

It’s ironic that much of “The Marsh King’s Daughter” takes place in a backwoods marsh area, because this entire movie is a soggy mess. It starts off as a monotonous drama and devolves into a series of silly action scenes that don’t look believable. There are no real surprises in this disappointing dud, except for the surprise that some viewers might feel about how “The Marsh King’s Daughter” gets worse as the movie stumbles along to its very predictable conclusion.

Directed by Neil Burger, “The Marsh King’s Daughter” is based on Karen Dionne’s 2017 novel of the same name. Elle Smith and Mark L. Smith co-wrote the unimpressive adapted screenplay for “The Marsh King’s Daughter.” It’s more of a series of plot checklists than an engaging story that flows well. The cast members, for the most part, just go through the motions in drab performances.

The tedious first third of the movie takes place in 2002, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where a reclusive family of three people are living “off the grid” in a remote wooded area near a marsh. Helena (played by Brooklynn Prince) is a 10-year-old who adores her father Jacob “Jake” Holbrook (played by Ben Mendelsohn), who teaches her the fundamentals of hunting and fishing. Jacob also has an unusual habit of giving underage Helena a tattoo every time she kills a specific animal.

Helena has a closer emotional bond with her father than she has with her mother Beth (played by Caren Pistorius), because Helena thinks that her mother is an uptight nag. “She’s always mad at me,” Helen complains to Jacob about Beth. From the beginning, it’s shown that Jacob is abusive to Beth.

Every time it looks like Beth wants to leave to go somewhere on her own, Jacob physically and roughly restrains her and prevents her from leaving. Helena witnesses some of this abuse, but she turns a blind eye to it because her father has convinced Helena that Beth deserves to be “disciplined.” Jacob is so manipulative, he has lied to Helena by saying Beth is trying to abandon them.

That’s why it should come as no surprise to “The Marsh King’s Daughter” viewers when it’s revealed that Jacob kidnapped Beth (whose last name is Ericson) about 12 years earlier and forced her to get pregnant. Helena was the result of this forced pregnancy. This secret isn’t revealed to Helena until something drastic happens.

By the end of the first third of the movie, Beth makes a daring escape with Helena, while Jacob murders an innocent ATV driver (played by Joshua Peace) during this escape. Jacob is captured, convicted, and sentenced to several years in prison. The media and law enforcement have given Jacob the nickname The Marsh King. None of this is spoiler information, since it’s already revealed in the trailer for “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” which gives away about 80% of the movie’s plot.

The middle and last sections “The Marsh King’s Daughter” take place in 2022. Helena (played by Daisy Ridley) is now a 30-year-old married mother, with the married surname Pelletier. Helena works in accounting at a local college. Beth is now deceased. It’s mentioned at one point in the movie that it took years for Helena and Beth to somewhat mend their relationship before Beth died.

Helena is deeply ashamed of who her father is, so she changed her own identity years ago. She has not told her businessman husband Stephen Pelletier (played by Garrett Hedlund) about her father and his sordid crimes. Instead, Helena has told Stephen that her father is dead. Helena and Stephen have one child together: an intuitive and curious daughter named Marigold (played by Joey Carson), who’s about 8 or 9 years old.

Helena’s world comes crashing down when Jacob escapes from being transported in a prison van and kills a few more people in the process. Jacob is determined to track down Helena, because in his warped mind, he thinks that he, Helena, and Marigold should live as a happy family in the marsh area where Helena spent much of her childhood.

Gil Birmingham has a thankless supporting role as an investigating police officer named Clark Bekkum, who was in love with Helena’s mother Beth. Clark and Beth never married, but Clark became like a stepfather figure to Helena when she was younger and when Jacob was in prison. Clark still wants to have that type of stepfather figure role in Helena’s life when Clark and Helena reconnect after not seeing each other for years. What happens to Clark in the movie is exactly what you think happens to Clark.

Mendolsohn has made a career out of playing movie villains, and he does more of the same posturing and sneering as “The Marsh King” serial killer Jacob in this tepid and uninspired drama. Ridley fails to convince during an abrupt transition when Helena goes from being a meek and introverted wife/mother to a badass action hero who thinks she doesn’t need law enforcement’s help in dealing with her dangerous father. There is so little suspense in how this story ends, “The Marsh King’s Daughter” simply exists as mindless mush.

Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions released “The Marsh King’s Daughter” in U.S. cinemas on November 3, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on November 21, 2023.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix