SXSW 2021: 'I'm Fine (Thanks For Asking)', 'Our Father' | Indie Drama | Capsule Reviews
I'M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING)
A breath of fresh air in film and television that was shot during COVID-era in that it is just a product of times and doesn't make a fuss about it, I'm Fine (Thanks For Asking) by directing and writing duo of Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina, co-written with Roma Kong, is a day-in-the-life type of movie we all know and love. Its lead character Danny (played by Kali herself) has recently become a widow and she also has an 8-year-old daughter Wes (Wesley Moss) to take care of. On the day that we find them, they are living in a tent while Danny is trying to pull together an amount of money to get an apartment for them, Wes just happens to think they're only camping and Danny needs another 200 dollars to secure the place.
Not only in a director's chair but in front of the camera too, Kali is pretty much carrying I'm Fine on her back from the get-go as her character is rather calm and determined, attributes Kali's performance shines a light on charmingly. Other actors pop in and out, some more successfully than others, but it would be hard to care about any of them without the screen presence that Danny is the vessel for. Danny's neon-coloured clothing and that sick roller skate action fits the character who is often putting a brave face on (hence the title) when dealing with unfortunate circumstances.
Most of the things aren't all that near the actor's level which is a detriment to the overall experience. The script is just way too predictable for someone's life that isn't predictable, as Danny and Wes get curveballs thrown at them, we the viewers know and recognise every single beat in the movie. It never really picks up the pace, never makes people around Danny feel tangible or makes the plot into more than its tagline or title. As the day goes by as well, the shifts in tone (perhaps due to different shooting days) show their true colours time and time again. There is especially one really weird fight scene towards the end that isn't transitioned to at all and which is shot in completely different style than most of the film. If you're asking, the film is just fine, nothing more.
Smileys: Kelley Kali
Frowneys: Screenplay, tone
Our Father, as you might interpret from the title, features two siblings (sisters to be precise) coming together after the passing of their dad. Beta (Baize Buzan) and Zelda (Allison Torem) haven't been talking or spending much time together lately, not really knowing what each other is doing currently until they meet up before going to the father's place to collect things along with their stepmom and half-brothers. Eventually they're set to track down their uncle since he is mentioned in the will, an adventure where the two get to reconnect once again.
That paragraph is the problem because that's the whole movie actually, director-writer-editor Bradley Grant Smith's work seems terribly stuck in first gear, never developing into anything adventurous or even exciting. Lines of exposition about each of their lives are kind of thrown in every 10 minutes or so to get to the next place but we don't really arrive anywhere. Beta is going to Yale (*yawn*) and has apparently been in a bad relationship, the guy eventually shows up and we generously get about two minutes to hash that thing out. Zelda seems to have several serious issues but the way that they are handled here is lazy with capital L, her scenes are even edited and shot in comedic fashion which is a terrible choice considering what she is going through.
Often though it's hard to even tell how things are shot in because the lighting of scenes is truly atrocious for most of the runtime. This is a drama film where you can't see faces, hands, eyes or even sections of rooms which should be a huge red flag. Toward the end, there's a scene around a piano which just embodies the unnatural and overshadowed visual look you can't connect with. The ensemble cast lead by Buzan and Torem is much better than the material they are working with as are the music cues weaving in and out so it's a shame that the outing feels, to emphasise the word even more, lazy.
Smileys: Actors were good enough
Frowneys: Lighting, story, editing