Shot in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new film “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)” finds a single mother struggling to provide shelter and a good life for her young daughter after the unexpected death of her husband.
Danny (played beautifully by co-writer and co-director Kelley Kali Chatman) has taken her young daughter Wes on an extended camping trip. The reality of their situation is that the two have become homeless and are now forced to live in a tent in the hills of L.A.
Danny hustles her way through a trying day that does nothing to ease her worries. Hair appointments that are supposed to pay her big bucks are either cancelled or ruined. Pawning what she thought was worthy jewelry leads to a dead end. Delivering food does not go as planned, as entitled customers ruin her chance for tips and a good rating.
As Danny roller skates around the city trying to find the money to put down on an apartment (the deadline is by day’s end), her reality mirrors what thousands of Americans are experiencing during the pandemic, as businesses are folding, jobs are scarce, and more and more people are becoming homeless.
The film holds up a mirror to 2020/2021 America and demands answers for how a country so rich never seems to have the funds to help its own citizens, unless they are part of the elite, who don’t actually need the help in the first place.
As Kelley Keli simply yet profoundly stated, “If everyone cared more about other people than themselves, we’d all be taken care of.”
A parent will do almost anything to provide for their children, but we are human. Sometimes pride can begin to overcome selflessness.
Danny does not want handouts and tries to do it all herself (frankly, there is almost no one who can help her). Time is running out for her and Wes. The apartment that can save them from the streets is right there, but with the landlord being a stickler about the final few hundred dollars, it is still far out of reach.
Keli is exceptionally good as Danny. Her fear, her sadness, her helplessness, all ring true. Her talent as an actress, writer, and filmmaker is obvious and I look forward to seeing what she brings in the future.
Keli’s organically natural performance helps us experience Danny’s pain. The disappointments are crushing and a betrayal by a close friend hits hard.
Seeing characters masked-up and socially distancing will certainly make this a time capsule film but it is so much more than that.
While Danny and Wes’ situation is certainly grim, the film is not. Apart from a few very real and emotionally harsh moments, the film has a lite touch, as Danny is almost always smiling her way through her predicament and there are dashes of humor throughout. Becky Baihui Chen’s camerawork keeps the film bright and grounded in the mood the filmmakers were searching for, a perfect reflection of what the pandemic has meant for us all with a balance of the bad and the beautiful.
Standup comedian Deon Cole has a particularly good cameo as a slick-talking guy who is struck by Danny’s beauty. This is a good scene that becomes quite revealing as it plays out.
Keli, fellow director Angelique Molina, and fellow writer Roma Kong trust their audience to know that things are bad for Danny and the rest of the country. They need not wallow in the dour. We are right there with Danny the whole way and experience it all spontaneously.
A telling moment (and a beautiful shot) is where we see a worn-down Danny dwarfed by a mural that says, “A Woman’s place is in the struggle.” It is a powerful moment that says everything.
“I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)” is a beautiful film that exists in and for our current times. This is a work that finds strength in its characters and strives to give back to its audience by spreading a little hope for us all.