Review by James Lindorf
Yesterday “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)” made its world premiere at SXSW Online 2021. It is one of eight narrative feature films in competition at SXSW this year. So far, it is my front runner by a pretty significant margin. Its lead’s moving performance, the relatable story, and beautiful cinematography make it a micro-budget masterpiece that deserves to be a festival darling.
At the height of the pandemic hairdresser, Danny is struggling like never before. Recently widowed and houseless, Danny is shielding her 8-year-old daughter Wes from the truth by pretending they are on an extended camping trip. After weeks in the Southern California heat, Wes finally gets the news she has longed for when Danny promises her that they will go home by the end of the day. With clients lined up and an apartment on hold, all Danny needs is for the day to go as planned, but a series of mishaps threatens to derail her plans. It will take plenty of determination, hustle, and sacrifice for Danny to get the money she needs to keep her promise to Wes.
Kelley Kali was a co-writer, co-director, producer, and executive producer. She also happened to be the star of the film. She doesn’t get all the credit because it was a collaborative experience to bring this story to life under challenging circumstances. Still, it is clear to say that without her, it wouldn’t be what it is. Outside of a drug-fueled dream sequence, I can’t think of a single thing I would change about the movie. The chemistry between Kali and Wesley Moss, who played her daughter, is fantastic. Deon Cole makes a cameo appearance that brings some humor and a new level of creepiness to the movie. Danny’s tough day highlights the struggle that so many people are experiencing during the pandemic, but her resolve is an inspiration. Her love for Wes will lead Danny and her impractical mode of transportation all over Palmdale as she fights and sacrifices to make sure Wes is safe and happy.
Most movies that deal with people struggling and embrace realism are often movies that rate low on the rewatchability scale. However, in the time since I saw this movie nearly two weeks ago, I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to hear the laughter as Wes begs for a fan, I want to see the joy on Danny’s face as she gets to skate for fun and not for work, and I want to see the bond of friendship and love hold people together and lift each other up. I don’t know what distributor will purchase the film at SXSW, but I hope whoever it is, gets “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)” in front of the biggest audience it can because it deserves it.
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