I’m Totally Fine is a charming, simple film that explores grief, anxiety, and the weight of unresolved loss. The film is funny and heartbreaking all at once. Successfully tugging at the heartstrings of the Ghouls. Gabe discusses the film's fun concept that can get too real sometimes. Kat researches how animals grieve, revealing humans to not be that special.
Sources in this Episode: ‘I’m Totally Fine’ puts a comedic spin on grief Do Animals Experience Grief? The Truth about Animal Grief
Reviews: I'm Totally Fine Is a Weird, Sweet Sci-Fi Tale About Letting Go I'm Totally Fine Review: A Dramedy That Has The Right Idea But Wrong Tone Grief, Friendship, And Aliens: An Interview With ‘I’m Totally Fine’ Writer, Alisha Ketry – COMICON I'm Totally Fine (2022) Ending, Explained – How does one loss help Vanessa cope with another?
Media from this week's episode:
I’m Totally Fine (2022)
Vanessa, a woman in mourning, takes a solo trip to clear her head after the death of her friend, but her self-care vacation plans change when she's met with an out-of-this-world situation.
Director Brandon Dermer
Writer Alisha Ketry
I'm Totally Fine: A Comedic Exploration of Grief & Loss by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
I’m Totally Fine is a charming, simple film that explores grief, anxiety, and the weight of unresolved loss. Vanessa travels to a remote house for what was meant to be a celebration. Her and her best friend, Jennifer, had successfully secured a distribution deal for the organic soda they made together. Only the day has taken a sour turn, Vanessa is alone and Jennifer is no longer with us. She bumbles about, struggling through the fog and lethargy of loss while trying to cancel the party. Only to be told she cannot because she missed the deadline for cancellation. She is required to have a party. So she parties alone. She pushes down her complicated emotions, a feeling of true loss paired with disappointment, resentment and a sense of unfairness. Jennifer has left her here to pick up the pieces alone. The morning after her drunken antics, after trying her best to party, she wakes and encounters Jennifer in her kitchen. Convinced she’s finally lost it, snapped at the loss of her lifelong best friend. This Jennifer is strange though, her words clipped and robotic, confused. Vanessa learns that this is not Jennifer at all but is instead an alien wearing her face. They have been sent here to study Vanessa and her grief. As a gift for participation, she gets two days to spend with her dead best friend.
What happens throughout is a funny mix of scenes where Vanessa works to reason the situation away. She creates an explanation for every interaction, the alien wants to know how well she can swim and hold her breath because Jennifer and Vanessa had been in swim club so Vanessa’s brain is inventing this situation to cope with her grief. It’s not until Alien-Jennifer reveals information that Vanessa was never supposed to know. Once the secret was confirmed, one Jennifer had sworn to take to the grave (and technically did), that Vanessa realizes this may not be a hallucination after all. Deciding to take advantage of the alien Jennifer, they share more secrets, emotions, and memories. Alien-Jennifer is quick to confirm Vanessa’s memories, letting her know that “Jennifer loved you a lot,” or “Jennifer lied to you to protect your feelings.”
Throughout this adventure, Vanessa is forced to confront her loss but more importantly, her reluctance to feel and explore her grief. She has pushed forward, working to convince her boyfriend and herself, that she is okay, she is totally fine. But Alien-Jennifer reveals the truth, she’s far from okay and hasn’t been for a long time. She feels cheated, her person stolen unexpectedly and too soon. A bizarrely kind but rude stranger later questions her about her business agreement, asking if they had a mortality clause in their contract. Of course they didn’t, never expecting mortality to rear its ugly head in such a sudden and cruel way. As Vanessa forms a connection with Alien-Jennifer, learning to not only accept the emotions she has as a human but to appreciate them. Learning that our emotions make us unique and powerful, truly human. After losing Jennifer again, this time in the form of an alien visitor, Vanessa finally admits that’s she’s not totally fine, but that’s okay.
In an interview with director Brandon Dermer, on Audacy, KRLD news radio titled, ‘I’m Totally Fine’ puts a comedic spin on grief, he explains his inspiration for the film. “It was 2020… And like everyone, the rug was pulled out from under us. For me, my anxiety is such and the pandemic obviously was like the uncertainty cranked up to 11. Like, every day, we were learning something new, it was really stressful. And I started to realize that the moment I stopped trying to control this thing that was out of my control out of everyone's control, I could be a little bit more happy and present. I wanted to sort of synthesize that feeling into a story in a way that in an alien, something that is the most foreign out of this world concept, which because that's what it felt like we were living through.”
One of the more interesting parts of the film was the stripped down parts of it. Featuring minimal locations, mostly the house and the roads near it. There’s few characters, one of which, Vanessa’s boyfriend, is only ever seen through a video call. The film was shot in just ten days. Originally, Dermer intended for actor Jillian Bell to play Jennifer the alien but when she read the script, she felt much more attached to Vanessa. Dermer explains that, “She lost her father 10 years ago, and she knew exactly beat by beat what we were viewing following the stages of grief.” Losing someone is such a specific and traumatic event that sticks with you. Vanessa’s grief felt personal and relatable, something I really appreciated. It wasn’t over-the-top or loud, shouting at us about her pain but instead was that reserved grief we face alone, in the dark of night when everyone else has gone to sleep and left us with our thoughts, worries, and regrets. Vanessa’s desperation to hold on to Alien-Jennifer feels raw and real. With her attempts to keep the alien friend, even this pale imitation of her longest and best of friends, here with her was a feeling I could sit with. I could relate. For director Derner, he has hopes for the impact of this film. Hoping it inspires us to value the time we do have, especially during these uncertain times as we’ve been told to refer to them. “We really hope that this movie inspires people to like, reach out to someone, maybe you haven't. Because life is short and precious. And like every morning, it's really hard to remember that in the midst of this crazy world that we live in.“
Humans Aren't That Special, Animals Mourn the Dead Too by Kat Kushin
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Dealing with a sudden loss can be extremely hard to process. We’ve talked about this in previous episodes, and explored how grieving is not a linear experience, nor does it always follow the grief stages as outlined in most articles when googling grief. In I’m Totally Fine we’re given a window into the experience of Vanessa as she’s dealing with the sudden and unexpected loss of her best friend. With the quirky twist of “an alien is wearing the skin of my deceased friend to run tests on humanity”. While this film was hard to watch and fairly emotional, it did a good job sprinkling in comedic moments and heartfelt closure throughout. Leaving the watcher with the que