One of my friends once told me he was relieved the first time he heard the term “suicidal ideation.” It sounds odd, but like many people are relieved to hear their diagnosis, he was relieved to know that suicidal ideation is a thing—you can be passively imagining how to die, without necessarily wanting to act on it. That is a large part of what this film is about.
I was only recently introduced to this Sundance short, which apparently is being expanded into a feature now. I had some mixed feelings about it although it’s obviously had *a lot* of audience love.
I guess my main quibble is, there seems to be nothing—nothing—defining the lead actress’s character, aside from her depression and social anxiety and a co-worker’s possible romantic interest in her. But maybe that’s the point. It works well as a short, with her just being a living embodiment of depression and suicidal ideation, and the dark humor being that *she herself* thinks that all there is to her—working on spreadsheets, going home and microwaving a meal and just literally staring at the wall. I’m curious about how it will work feature-length, I imagine her character will have to be fleshed out a wee bit.
But now, what I really do love and relate to about it. The actress Katy Wright-Mead pulls off an amazing physical performance almost on the level of classic silent movie acting. Her constant tense muscles and pinched expression are incredibly emotive. Embodiment is truly the word for it, and it makes it all the more tear-jerking when she cracks at the end.
Also, I have to admit, I do have an uncomfortable window into this character. I once suffered from so much crippling social anxiety, shyness, and fear that I remember having a couple of people who I envisioned as being really “cool” at the time ask me what kind of music I listened to, and me telling them “Oh, I don’t really listen to much music”—which was patently untrue. I often went home and listened to music for hours on my headphones for comfort, I was just afraid of what they would think of my opinions and really didn’t know what to say and was afraid of engaging from that point forward, so I just shut down. I feel like that memory is probably akin to what this character feels about expressing an opinion on a film, and the great commentary this movie makes is, well that actually doesn’t matter, I just wanted to get to know you as a person, cause I think I might actually like you, dumbass.
I also think there is a lot of dark humor in the film, and the lead actress is suppressing so much of herself, and is so self-loathing, that it’s hard to tell (especially in a short film) how much of her lack of a personality is real and how much is imagined.
The whispering confessional voice-over, the title, and even the cinematography to me are so reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things that I almost wondered if that film was an influence on this one, but they were made around the same time. Without revealing too much, both of their narrators are women possibly entering relationships and their inner monologues, and both of them turn out to have their brains hijacked at times by depression and suicidal ideation. It’s an odd similarity.
The ending does really destroy me. Like I said, there’s a crack in the depression and suicidal ideation, and some desire to connect to someone, that feels very genuinely sad and genuine. I think that’s why it works so well. I’m curious to see the feature.