I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) – Review

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) - Review

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) – Review. By Joe Muldoon.

Danny (Kelley Kali, a rapidly-rising star, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film) and her daughter Wes (Wesley Moss) are homeless, living in a tent by the wayside in Pacoima, Los Angeles. Trying to shelter her from their current predicament, Danny has told her that they’re on a short camping trip until their new house is ready.

In reality, Danny is struggling to earn enough money to make a down payment on a rental property, trying to recover from the blindsiding sudden death of her husband. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wes’ tuition is all online, meaning that she can be dropped off at a friend’s house so they can study together, giving her mother the time she needs to earn money.

Any reprieve Danny receives is bittersweet. Every time she is thrown a lifeline, she knows that it is only temporary; even if she earns the money needed to survive today, tomorrow will always be around the corner, a fresh day of drudgery awaiting her. A worker in the awful gig economy, Danny makes her money in any way she can – braiding hair, delivering fast food orders (to some venomously unsympathetic customers), and even pawning her personal possessions. Rollerskating her way between jobs, every breathing second is a fight against the clock, the threat of having her reserved rental property offered to other prospective tenants always looming overhead.

Despite the heavy-hitting overtones of the film, the tone is often kept relatively light, some of the people with whom Danny interacts offering a few laughs here and there. Particularly refreshing is the fact that life in L.A. is not glamourised. Far from the typical glitzy depictions of fame, fun, and fortune, we spend the duration of the film amongst the lives of working-class people, many of whom fight to survive. As Danny glides across the streets of Pacoima, there is a certain grace to her movements, helped along by the cinematography efforts of Becky Baihui Chen.

By all accounts, I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) is a much-needed, poignant and heartbreaking meditation on poverty in modern day America, the wealthiest country in the world – but it feels wrong to say that I enjoyed it. Danny’s plight is incredibly difficult to watch, quickly becoming emotionally exhausting, her distress and despair leaking through to the audience.

Writing trio Kelley Kali, Roma Kong, and Angelique Molina have ensured that a strong punch is packed, and that little is held back. To call it a work of fiction would only partially be true; Danny, Wes, and their supporting characters have been created by the writing team, but they indirectly represent very real people. Tens of millions of Americans for whom this film is a reality.

By Joe Muldoon

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) hits cinemas and on digital from 3 March.

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