Through times of extreme hardship, parents will endure the harshness of the world for their children. Almost somehow pulling off Herculean-like feats to make sure they have better lives than they did. It’s truly a wonder what a mother or father will go through to make sure the protective bubble over the ones they love stays safe and secure. Danny (Kelley Kali) is a recent widow and sleeps in a tent with her daughter Wes (Wesley Moss). Danny tells Wes that they are on a camping trip while having anxiety in trying to find a permanent place to stay. However, today is going to be different. She is only $200 short to deposit an apartment – a deal that she made with an empathetic landlord named Mr. Wu (Xing-Mai Deng). She makes a promise to her daughter that they would move to this place. Of course, things won’t be this easy.
First-time directors Kail and Angelique Molina fully utilize their small budget to the movie’s advantage. Danny splits herself between jobs to make ends meet. From braiding hair to working for a Grub Hub-esque delivery service. This is all with roller skates as her method of travel. It’s a sweltering day that weighs on Danny as hours pass by. The babysitter that watches Wes hasn’t been paid in a while and things compound from there. Clients cancel on her. There’s one instance where she braids someone’s hair only for them to flake out on them paying her. There’s a rude patron that she meets when delivering a food order. Which each disappointment, the camera switches from tight to wide shots to show her desperation. She’s so close to providing something concrete for her daughter, yet it feels as though the universe is working against her.
All the while, she has these small interactions with people that she knows who brings up her deceased husband, Sam. Every time, she insists everything is fine and well. However, each involuntary moment where people chose to reminisce on his sudden passing takes a little piece away from her. Often when we aren’t doing well, we’ll put the strongest poker face on indicating everything but. There’s a sense of pride where you’re a parent in that you want to appear to have it all together. These random reminders just further implement the void that her husband left when he suddenly passed away, both from a relationship and security standpoint. Her wedding ring becomes an important plot point of the film. With the little that she has left, it’s the one thing that keeps him alive to her and her daughter. However, she gets a chance to pawn it away for money.
Danny wrestles with this, and it’s a genuine point of conflict to have. She will put herself through painstaking labor to keep it because other than her daughter, it’s the one thing that holds emotional weight that the world hasn’t taken. It’s not until Danny has a slight reprieve catching up with an old friend named Brooklyn (Brooklynn Marie) smoking weed that she lets her walls down. Afterward, a beautiful and metaphorical scene happens where she’s suspended in water. All the things such as money and the ring seem out of her grasp, and she lets out a much-needed scream.
I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) holds to its drama mold with a couple of breaks for humor, here and there. Deon Cole‘s character Chad, (Brooklyn’s new boyfriend who is supposed to whisk her away to Calabasas) has a brief interaction with Danny while she sits at the steps of a church for rest. Some pieces of dialogue make inhibit a laugh out of the audience. ‘I’m Fine’s focus sticks to the laser-like focus of a mother who wants to keep a promise to her daughter. Even as the world cuts her no breaks, she elects to find a way somehow. In the end, Danny finds solace in the person she still has left. While it wasn’t easy, they find their little piece of heaven through a hectic summer day.
I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) was filmed in 2020 when the word hope seemed so distant. Almost fantasy-like. Through Kali’s performance, we root for Danny, wish her time to rest, hang on every tear, and breathe a sigh of relief when she succeeds.