I’m Fine Thanks opens with a promise: “If I’m stabbed, I’ll die.” It’s a deceptively simple assessment of mortality, as what follows is a dark, enigmatic triumph for director and animator Eamonn O’Neill. This deconstruction of an unnamed, lemon-headed protagonist earned the Royal College of Art graduate a BAFTA nomination, and it’s not hard to see why. Every frame pulsates with a restless sense of frailty, while Joseph Tate’s admirably coarse sound design takes advantage of the sensitively drawn characters to create an unnerving experience for the viewer.
The film skips through various stages of a man’s life, ultimately seeking an explanation for his later reincarnation as a bitter and tortured adult. Watch and wince as a speech impediment sees him struggle with the word “persistent” (yet another reference to the film’s hurried nature), although it is perhaps an early aggressive encounter that foreshadows his bout of social alienation.
The most effective scene changes hinge on big, brooding soundscapes, giving the film a sense of brevity that qualifies the ambitious scope of it’s narrative. O’Neill’s visuals, meanwhile, are enjoyably minimalistic. Novel combinations of colour are employed to offset the increasingly dark tone of the story. His humanoids are often equipped with large eyes that instantly inspire sympathy, while the jittery animation lends them a vulnerable edge. It is here where the sound design really comes into play, as characters are pushed, flicked, beaten, and yes, stabbed. Each one of these inflictions is as harshly rendered as the other, making every ounce of pain count. To see such amiable creations take such a beating can be hard to stomach, but it’s a trait that fits beautifully into the film’s musings on the fragility of life. The final stretch sees a key sequence repeated and reassessed to expose a vicarious nature. While not exactly the crux of the film, it’s a neat trick that provides the most perversely relatable moment of its short duration.
This is a short film that rewards multiple viewings. To limit what O’Neill wants to say with his creation to one line would be unfair, but its final image makes it hard for one to avoid the feeling that life is too short. Even with this in mind, I’m Fine Thanks is still well worth your time and patience.