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Ernestas Jankauskas I Am Fine, Thanks Review


I Am Fine, Thanks | 2021 Warsaw International Film Festival Review

I Am Fine, Thanks | 2021 Warsaw International Film Festival Review

Love, Deliver Us From Evil: Jankauskas Undercooks His Fiery Dive into Destructive Perfectionism

Ernestas Jankauskas I Am Fine, Thanks ReviewA flock of particularly belligerent rubber ducks floats toward Maria (Gabija Siurbytė), waist-deep in a river, ready to encircle their prey. The image has an absurdist quality to it, and so does the whole of Lithuanian Ernestas Jankauskas’ trippy sophomore feature I Am Fine, Thanks. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite succeed in bringing the nuances of the collapse and restoration of Maria’s newly reclaimed mental health to a convincing closure.

Anxious to check herself out of a psychiatric hospital, Maria brushes off her doctor’s warnings about a potential relapse. Afraid to be stigmatized, she will lie to keep her illness a secret. Her attempts to reintegrate into her family, workplace, and relationship, however, unleash the hallucinations yet again.

Maria wishes to satisfy all her parts – the ambitious neuroscientist, the perfect daughter, a loving partner – there is no room for cracks. Nor does she receive empathy from those closest to her: in her grandmother’s eyes, Maria’s job, a study of mice, is a strange whim; to her mother, she lacks the principles to cut it as a scientist; to her long-time colleague, she is a liability. It seems the protagonist may find some respite in her fiancé’s arms. As they josh with each other and parade naked around their apartment, their vulnerability suggests a deep-seated trust. But when Paulius (Andrius Paulavičius) shows his true colors as an abusive and egomaniacal partner, reality spirals out of Maria’s control altogether.

The film works best when getting down to the inter-family dynamics. Throughout, characters repeat, reframe, and paraphrase the question “how are you?”. “Fine” is the only acceptable response here. And Maria conforms, but her body cannot follow suit. Cleverly edited to the rhythm of Maria’s accelerating pulse or as to reference the language of horror cinema, the hallucinations are nothing short of bonkers. A chase into a field shrouded in darkness, a bloody ritual, Damien-esque children, and, of course, the ducks: shocks come in all shapes and sizes. The juxtaposition of reality’s restrained color palette with the visions’ hyper-stylization lends itself well to illustrate Maria’s anxiety. It feels like a missed opportunity, however, that these set pieces do little to reflect the heroine’s journey toward self-love. Instead, they mainly serve as psychedelic eye candy.

Long overdue, the confrontation between Maria and her relatives boils with repressed emotions. An analogy between the mice experiment and the dysfunctional family develops, commenting on their shared characteristics: both environments lack unconditional love. This extended metaphor, laid down at a dinner table, feels almost banal against the compelling interpersonal dynamics. Siurbytė’s commanding delivery lends the scene energy, but a sense of unnecessary hastiness lingers.

Accomplished in its craftsmanship, I Am Fine, Thanks rarely disappoints as a character study. It’s the unconvincing denouement that ultimately diminishes the film’s cathartic qualities, while also insulting Maria’s complex relationships with her environment, and, more importantly, herself. Just as Maria learns to let go, so too the director feels all too willing to serve up his feature underbaked.

Reviewed on October 13th at the 2021 Warsaw International Film Festival – Competition 1-2 Section. 89 mins. Part of the The Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project.


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