SXSW 2021: ‘I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)’

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I'm Fine (Thanks For Asking)

I’m Fine (Thanks For Askingis a film directed by Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina and written and produced by Kali,  Molina, and Roma Kong. Taking place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the film centers on Danny (Kali), a recently widowed hairdresser. Danny and her daughter Wes (Wesley Moss) live in a tent on the outskirts of California, with Danny pretending they are going on a camping trip. Danny is confident that she will have the cash to move into an apartment by the end of the day, but a series of rapidly escalating incidents put her goal to the test.

Films centered around, or taking place during the pandemic, have been a relatively tricky thing. Some films have managed to make the most of things and told great stories, including Locked Down which was essentially a heist/romance film set in the age of COVID. Others, like Songbird, have utterly squandered their premise. I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) thankfully falls in the latter category due to how it approaches the toll this pandemic has had on people. Characters wear masks, take up all manner of jobs to support themselves, and talk about how they’ve either had to move to a new home or out of state. These are all things that have happened to real people and make this movie feel all the more authentic.

The driving force behind this movie is Kali’s performance as Danny. She runs the gamut of emotions, from joy upon seeing her daughter peacefully sleeping to despair upon realizing she may have lost a precious family heirloom. Danny is also hustling to scrape together the cash for her new apartment by doing odd jobs, including braiding her friend’s hair and making food runs for a delivery app. I’ve seen plenty of films chronicling the struggle of a single mother, but Kali and her co-writers easily underline how stressful this load becomes during COVID.

And living up to the film’s title, Danny constantly insists to her friends and neighbors that she’s fine following her husband Sam’s death. Still, fairly soon, her walls start to break down until she finally confesses to her friend Brooklynn (BK Marie) after partaking in some weed. Later, a sequence finds her fighting off a would-be thief who snuck into her tent; I was literally on the edge of my seat. Everything that can go wrong for Danny often does, and I’m glad Kali doesn’t shy away from that in her performance.

In addition to co-writing and taking the lead in I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking), Kali also steps into the director’s chair with Molina. The camerawork is mostly handheld, with cinematographer Becky Baihui Chen capturing the beauty of California. Vibrant murals featuring the likes of Frieda Kahlo and Danny Trejo surround Danny as she skates from destination to destination.

Long, swooping shots also occur during the opening of the film, making it feel like the world is out to swallow Danny and Wes. And there’s a trippy sequence in the middle of the film that perfectly sums up everything Danny is going through, and also happens to be visually arresting too: Danny trips in a puddle, but suddenly falls into a massive ocean, with what little earthly possessions she has floating around her. Sometimes you need to be direct with your metaphors in storytelling, and the idea of drowning in a sea of problems is a pretty direct metaphor.

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) is a heartwrenching reminder of how the pandemic has affected multiple people, bolstered by a winning performance from its multi-hyphenate star. Kali has made something truly special here, and I hope others can watch this film and connect with it on some level.

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) will premiere on Wednesday, March 17th at 11 am at SXSW Online 2021.

I'm Fine (Thanks For Asking)
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) is a heartwrenching reminder of how the pandemic has affected multiple people, bolstered by a winning performance from its multi-hyphenate star. Kali has made something truly special here, and I hope others can watch this film and connect with it on some level.