The impact of the COVID pandemic was always going to make its way to the screen. With sci-fi movies and strange heist films, romance and more, you can suspect that movies surrounding the tragedy of last year will stretch out as long as Hollywood can milk it.
But Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina, who write and direct this movie, have produced an empathic piece on the struggles of the working class. Centring the whole world on the shoulders of a single mother, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is an emotional piece under the blistering sun.
With Kali herself taking the lead role, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) revolves around the recently widowed Danny who has hit hard times. Danny and her daughter Wes are camping in a tent by the roadside.
Daily Wes is left in the care of a friend whilst Danny tries to hustle her way through hair appointments, post-mate jobs, and pawning her jewellry. She is trying to raise enough money to put a deposit on a place. But under the blistering sun of California, Danny struggles gather the pennies together.
The film is very intimate, following Danny as she skates into pitiful jobs through gig apps, and hair appointments. There is this great sense of journey for Danny whilst the atmosphere the scorching heat. As she skates, with her mask Kali is fantastic in this performance, putting a lot of sweat and tears into the emotion.
Danny is a brand new widower and that is the pulse and pain of the movie. Her husband Sam dies before the movie and because he didn’t have life insurance, everything quickly falls out of Danny’s hands. She is left in a precarious situation and one mistake knocks on the rest of her day, pushing her into panica and stress.
On top of this, she meets familiar faces from old friends, bringing up Sam’s death and asking if she is OK, the title makes sense – it is the hollow drum that she bleats to stop people asking questions.
There are moments of exasperating lag, especially in the middle of the movie where Danny gets high. But I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) captures the weird atmosphere of COVID life as the sun pillows down on the empty streets.
I get it – having a kid gives the audience another person to root for and adds a layer to Danny’s problems. Here it is to try and get them a home, instead of just the tent. Yet this is enough of a poignant story for a single person.
Plus Wes disappears for most of the movie and therefore the connection just doesn’t feel as strong. Think on films such as The Pursuit of Happyness where dragging his son around adds to the anguish and somewhat embitterment even though it isn’t his son’s fault.
The death of her husband Sam and living alone on the outskirts trying to defend herself from people who wish to rip-her off or want to be with her is enough anguish without the kid.
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) isn’t perfect and a scene towards the end of the movie feels mismatched against the rest of the film. But it is a good depiction of those falling apart in the pandemic.
With Danny’s spirit sweltering and skating in the sun and Kali’s plucky performance powering it forward, this movie is more than fine – thanks for asking.
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