I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) review – lovable but slightly frustrating paean to working mums
This colourful, Sean Baker-esque story of the working homeless in COVID-stricken Los Angeles is surprisingly light on its feet
I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) gets a lot of mileage out of its title phrase, a brusque but polite retort that lead character Danny (Kelley Kali, also one of the film’s co-directors) can use as a weapon and an escape hatch as she navigates one of the most stressful 24 hours of her life across a meltingly hot summer’s day. See, Danny is (temporarily, she hopes) homeless, and just $200 in cash short of securing a deposit on a new place, cash she needs to come up with by that evening.
Making matters more pressing is Danny’s nine-year-old daughter Wes (Wesley Moss), with whom Danny has been sharing a tent by an overpass for the past few days, trying to play off their situation as a fun camping trip when, in reality, the sudden death of Danny’s partner has rendered the pair unhoused. It’s exactly the sort of downbeat yet bright and colourful story of people on society’s margins that Sean Baker excels at, and though I’m Fine never reaches the heights of its clear inspirations like The Florida Project it’s still a very amiable, if a little frustrating, effort.
Danny’s quest takes her up and down an LA in the midst of the COVID pandemic (all masks and distancing), roller skating between gigs as a hair-braider and in food delivery. Initially, the skates seem like a bit of a contrived Indie Movie Motif, but the sense of motion they allow for eventually gives the film a fluidity that is very welcome. It’s this stylistic bounciness that I’m Fine keeps itself fresh, bright colours and dreamlike movement contrasting with its ultimately quite dark story of the working homeless.
There are also a surprising number of laughs to be had here, especially in Danny’s chance meet-up with her chaotic old friend Brooklynn (Brooklynn Marie), which is very welcome in a plot that otherwise often seems to be spinning in circles. Though the characters here are charming, it can be irritating to see them hitting the same beats over and over, especially as a lot of the plot is built around Danny’s pride and sentimentality.
As the title suggests, she refuses to let anyone in her support network know about the real gravity of the situation, whilst also refusing to pawn the gold ring her late husband gave her for $300, an amount that would solve her housing situation instantly. This shame and indecision is initially relatable, and well-played by Kali, but as the situation gets more dire, it becomes harder to believe and/or accept that Danny wouldn’t put these feelings to one side to keep her daughter safe, particularly as the film goes out of its way to position her as a good mum.
Ultimately, though, I’m Fine mostly flies by (at least for the first hour), using its Sean Baker-inspired story and aesthetics to create a rather poetic, if a little thin, paean to working mums and the people barely getting by in the pandemic-informed gig economy of the 2020s. Everyone’s always just asking for one more day to pay, insisting they’re “good for it,” a desperate yet deeply familiar refrain that inspires both pity and annoyance from the people around them and ground this story in something painfully real.
I'm Fine (Thanks for Asking) is released in UK cinemas and Curzon Home Cinema on 3 March.Where to watch