Set during, yet never mentioning, the ongoing pandemic, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) follows widowed Danny (Kelley Kali), mother of a young daughter named Wes (Wesley Moss). Currently living in a tent out near the side of a highway, Danny needs enough cash to put a down-payment to rent an apartment, giving her the end of a single day to find about $200. Directed by Kali and Angelique Molina, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) contains a setup ripe for tears and emotional connection only to fall short through shaky dialogue and a shakier narrative.
Danny makes money in a few ways: braiding hair, delivering food for Post Pals (a Postmates stand-in), or selling her jewelry, including a ring that symbolizes her husband’s passing and their wish for a brighter future. To get around town, she roller skates, blading from restaurant to house to salon in order to be somewhat on time, which she never is. The first client doesn’t have the money to pay her. The second leaves because she’s late for the appointment. And as the day progresses, her circumstances only become direr, losing the ring and her tent getting robbed by a lowlife with a knife. Still, she pushes on, hoping for a lucky break.
Kali’s best moments as Danny come when she uses her eyes to tell a story. Her silence in the face of a handout from a rich passerby and her mounting frustration give the actor a moment to rest. Otherwise, she’s onto the next spot, leaving little time for her to sit in the tornado of her situation. The rest of the cast, supporting actors that pop up around Danny, do a serviceable job advancing the story, though the film’s dialogue rarely scratches the surface of what this single mother might be feeling. Nearly none of the words spoken by Danny, or her friends, seem to be rooted in the reality of this situation, and the lurking pandemic doesn’t help the cause.
In regards to the gig economy, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) has more to say, showing the needs for even a delivery worker. Danny’s life, and her gigs, would be easier with a car, with a charged phone, with the ability to move freely from place to place. Without a home, things get even harder for Danny and all those in a similar situation. Limitations are placed on gig workers despite their already limited capacity. How can one pull themselves out of homelessness without the tools needed to succeed, especially working in such a replaceable role?
When Danny opens up to those around her, they don’t listen or have other things on their mind. Her late-husband’s best friend makes a pass at her. Her newly-rich friend just wants to smoke weed and sit on the playground, thinking of the good ole days between them. No one realizes the severity of her situation, and the dialogue follows in that lack of understanding. Kali’s film, despite her best efforts, lacks a level of certainty and the depth needed to tell a story that has this ability to resonate. Without those, the film limps towards 90-minutes, only losing steam as the day wears on and hope (almost) becomes lost. Without exploring the gravity of individual and collective grief, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) ends up being just that: fine. It shows flashes of interest and contains a central performance that begs for a better story, but can’t compete with the circumstances it’s attempting to cover.
This review is from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.