I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) makes the most of its micro-budget trappings to create a charming film that asks tough questions.
Most people are closer to being houseless than they are to being millionaires. It’s a hard pill to swallow if you live in a country where upward mobility is a key part of your nation’s identity. Though it might be a taboo subject for some, the medium of film has had no trouble shining a light on class division and financial instability since its inception. From the pop culture behemoth that is Parasite to quieter films such as The Florida Project and Support the Girls, money and the way it runs our lives has never been a more popular topic of conversation. Enter I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), a small but mighty film that asks us to consider the lengths we take to survive.
The story of I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) follows familiar ground. We meet Danny (Kelly Kali, also co-director with Angelique Molina) and Wes (Wesley Moss) in the first scene as they wake up after a night of sleeping in a tent by the side of the road. Danny’s husband Sam recently died, and with him the family’s income. Now the mother-daughter duo is surviving hand to mouth in the greater Los Angeles area. The conflict comes in the form of an open apartment. Danny wants to move into it, but if she doesn’t have the money by the end of the day, she loses her spot in line. And so begins a frantic 16 hours of door dashing, hair braiding, and begging as Danny tries to secure the remaining funds.
Sounds like the setup for an absolute downer, right? However, what’s most surprising about I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is the relentless optimism and infectious energy that directors Molina and Kali bring to the table. Though the story plays out as a series of conversations, the late-summer setting and infectious soundtrack by Erick Del Aguila keep things from getting stagnant. Danny is first and foremost motivated by a need to give her daughter a better life than the one she has now, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Kali takes this innate motherly drive and expands upon it to create a complex character determined to make things work while trying not to fall to pieces over the grief of losing her husband.
This duality in Danny, that of embracing a hustle culture for the betterment of your family while having to neglect your personal feelings in the process, leads to some interesting points on individual well-being in a late-capitalist society. It’s touched on several points in the movie (and even in the titles cheeky parenthetical) that Danny is not really doing fine. One stroke of bad luck has rendered her without a spouse and a house, and she lacks the means to fix the latter in a timely manner. Instead, she must ignore everything except the essentials for survival to try to survive in a system that seems as if it wants nothing more than her downfall. It’s a tough message to swallow that manages to present itself bluntly but not without hope.
It’s this tonal tightrope that I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) manages to walk so weel that is ultimately the film’s greatest strength and the reason it should be seen. The tendency in today’s film landscape seems to be one of constant and unceasing cynicism, this makes for good movies that don’t really make you want to rewatch. It’s a nice change of pace to see a movie that asks tough questions while also showing that the situation isn’t entirely hopeless. Though it may not go down as one of the greats, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) proves that not everything has to be hopeless, and for it is worth watching.
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) will be released in UK cinemas on March 3, 2023.