Ernestas Jankauskas I Am Fine, Thanks (2021)


    A mosaic of dangerous liaisons serves as the backdrop of Ernestas Jankauskas’ second feature film, I Am Fine, Thanks (2021), a dry exploration of one middle-aged woman’s psyche. Regrettably, the nuanced and compassionate performance of Gabija Siurbytė, who plays the main role, and the few offbeat accents - including  the burial of the family’s dog under the apple tree and enormous, eldritch, buoyant, rubber ducks - cannot even up the film’s hiccups.

    Maria (Siurbytė), a prominent neuroscientist, suffers a mental breakdown. While still in danger of a relapse, she leaves the psych ward and resumes the life that was put on hold for the past two months. First, she finds out that she has been excluded from her own research. Maria’s entire scientific career depends on an upcoming presentation of the study’s conclusions as it could result in crucial funding for the further investigation of the topic. But now, as her lab colleague informs her, if Maria steps away from the study, it is apparently better for everyone involved.

    Things are falling apart elsewhere, too. Her mum is in hospital after hip surgery and she guilt-trips Maria whenever she gets a chance. Maria’s niece is an angsty teenager who is impossible to have a conversation with, while her partner, Paulius (Andrius Paulavičius), is a conductor who is a passionate lover but also an abuser. Maria keeps repeating the phrase, “I am fine” but she is, in fact, less and less OK. Her grip on reality is gradually loosening.

    Jankauskas’ film is show-all, tell-all. Instead of putting in the work and crafting the screenplay in such a way that the overall tension and Maria’s mindset can be conveyed to the audience in a clever, under-the-table way, we follow her through cliched spine-tingling visions. High-pitched noise heralds yet another upcoming breakdown. Next thing you know, she’s out in the corn fields, a deep voice is calling out her name, there are searchlights, hounds are unleashed, she’s being chased. There’s an argument to be made for Jankauskas’ attempt to explore the theme of the hostility of our living environment. The execution, however, is uninspiring, with its overly familiar visuals of moist and misty corn fields and chilly rivers that not only do you not care for his intentions, you also subsequently give up on Maria’s character. There’s also the feeling of impending danger, personified by a group of sinister, hooded individuals, in case you haven’t had enough.

    A cure-all confrontation at a family dinner and over-reliance on the scientific presentation motif serve as an excuse for a display of her unsettled existential experience but are not enough to redeem Jankauskas’ feature. I Am Fine, with its ebbing tension, is also troubled by over-execution of its themes and the simplistic method used to evoke Maria’s hallucinations. And so Maria doesn’t feel well, but she’s fine, thanks. By the end of the film you finally realise that you do not wish to inquire any further.