I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)
It’s got the kind of title brazenly inflected with enough postmodernity to make your eyes roll, a quirky tick of the contemporary independent film circuit. But I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is a compassionate day-in-the-life movie anchored by a beaming, infectious goodwill towards Danny (co-writer and co-director Kelley Kali), the homeless, recently widowed single mother at the story’s fizzing, frazzled centre.
We meet Danny and her young daughter, Wes (Wesley Moss), on a scorching LA morning in a roadside tent that they have been living in since her husband’s untimely death. While Wes has been convinced by her mother that they are on a prolonged camping trip, she begins to grow restless as a result of the relentless heat and poor living conditions, and is promised by her mother that they will move into a new house that evening. The only obstacle to that end is a $300 deficit on the property’s deposit, which must be closed before the day is out. Wes is left with a childminder while Danny works to make up the difference. However, after being shorted by a client of her mobile hairdressing startup, her path to financial stability for herself and Wes is bulldozed into insecurity.
I’m Fine has many blemishes, from an uneven plot to rough, unpolished camera work. But effective filmmaking is a curious, mysterious beast that can’t be quantised, and, in this case, the feature’s potholes work to elevate the chaotic, frustrating charm that characterises its texture, and is necessary to prevent it dipping into an exercise in bleak social realism. Instead, Kali and co-director Angelique Molina (who also stars briefly as an irate client) build an ecosystem of fellow strugglers, hustlers and neurotics, with a similar vibrancy to that of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, a film whose title is subtly, but surely deliberately, invoked by an LA gold broker.
Kali and Molina’s direction is also at times surprisingly adventurous, a drug trip sequence acting as an allegorical vignette, which, far from being an indulgence, deepens the movie’s idiosyncratic melancholy while driving the plot towards its conclusion.
The issues with timing and pace are evident, but if there was ever a film which could absorb them, it would be one with a flawed yet spirited heart at its core.
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is released in select cinemas and on-demand on 3rd March 2023.
Watch the trailer for I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) here: