Daisy Ridley can’t get through “Sometimes I Think About Dying” without shedding a tear.
The “Star Wars” breakout leads the dark workplace comedy that debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Ridley plays cog employee Fran who, like the title suggests, pictures her own death as a form of solace from her corporate cubicle. “Hacks” actress Meg Stalter plays Fran’s boss, with Parvesh Cheena and Marcia DeBonis also starring. Rachel Lambert directs from a script by Kevin Armento, Katy Wright-Mead, and Stefanie Abel Horowitz, who directed the original short film.
“I just loved the script as a whole. I loved [Fran] but I loved the setting, I loved the office, I loved the time away from the office, and I loved [director] Rachel,” Ridley gushed during the 2023 IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox. “So it was a number of different things, but it was really a piece as a whole. Obviously, Fran is important in the piece, but so is everything. It was a beautiful concoction of things.”
“Sometimes I Think About Dying” is among IndieWire’s most anticipated films out of this year’s festival. And while the subject matter may seem depressingly daunting on the surface, director Lambert likened the feature to a different kind of love story, one that is a “romance of accepting yourself.”
Ridley related in part to her character, saying, “I think I don’t feel such lows, but as we all do, I have had times where I think I’m useless company. ‘Why would anyone want to be around me? Everything I’m saying is coming out wrong, I didn’t mean it like that.’ I have a really nice meal and say one thing and then I’ll be lying in bed thinking, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t mean that. Like what if they took it wrong?’ So not to such an extent [as Fran], but yes.”
She continued, “And then in general, no matter how many times I read the script before we did it, I always cried at the end with, ‘Do you wish you could un-know me?’ That is the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard, so I felt not just the relatability but I felt so much sympathy with the character.”
As for her real-life inspirations, Ridley added, “I don’t think I know anyone who is so removed, but I know people who find it hard to connect and think they’re doing a good job of covering it up while other people are trying to reach out. It’s like trying to meet in the middle. I felt a lot of sympathy for her in that space, and also within the office, like, people are just living their lives. You can’t have judgment on the people who are good at it because they’re just doing their own thing.”
Ridley also shared that she was open to being as awkward as necessary while in character.
“It was so enjoyable to be around everyone, but I was naturally set apart anyways,” Ridley said of working with the ensemble cast. “I don’t mind awkwardness, so I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll do this!’ I think there is a sweetness to that. Life isn’t so easy. Conversations don’t flow so easily, so in that way, it felt very human.”
Director Lambert said the script “really struck a chord,” especially when she read it in November 2020. “Sometimes I Think About Dying” is really about “the struggle to get through a day, at times,” Lambert said, adding that it was important to not be “trying to diagnose or find a reason” for Fran’s unhappiness.
“If you just focus on that, you’re making it about that. The greater conversation is how we treat ourselves and each other and celebrating our idiosyncrasies,” Lambert said. “In this way, anyone can project themselves onto Fran or any of these people. This is not a work of cynicism. We are not looking cynically at these environments. Any kind of distance that Fran is feeling isn’t because she resents being in this environment with these people. She’s very worried about living rightly and being able to overcome her limitations, or wishing she could. It wasn’t cynicism, it wasn’t judgment, it wasn’t reducing the humanity around her. That played into the awkwardness.”
Drawing upon films like “Clockwatchers” and Buster Keaton’s shorts, Lambert called out the comedy of just letting the actors “play” and keep the camera rolling.
“I watched a lot of Buster Keaton,” Lambert shared. “So much of his comedy was like, ‘I’m trying to live in this world and I can’t figure it out. There’s all these machines, and I just kind of want a girl, or I want a good meal, or I want to pay my rent, and everything feels so complicated. Why can’t I figure it out?’ He’s not a dope. It’s not from sympathy. The humor comes out because it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I can project myself onto that.’ That’s a reference in terms of tone.”
Ridley noted that co-star Stalter literally made those on set pee their pants at times.
“There were a few takes where Meg went so far off that we literally had people wetting themselves in the corridor,” Ridley said. “She went so far off the winding road of random like for 10 or 15 minutes.”
Read IndieWire’s review of “Sometimes I Think About Dying” here.